What do you do when your child says to you: “Is there really a Santa?”
It can be tempting to dig your heels in and keep up with the make believe, but there are solid reasons why it’s just plain humane to tell your child the truth about Santa.
From approximately the ages of 6-12 your kid is in the concrete stage of thinking. This means her thoughts transition from fantastical to more factual. Imaginary friends go away and dreams of living in ice cream castles fade (at least it did for me!) and your child starts to question what’s real and what’s not.
If your child is between these ages, her thinking is definitely evolving and the Santa question may be on her mind. If by some chance your child isn’t thinking about it, her friends are. And you know you can’t control the information your kid is hearing outside the home. And if it’s not addressed by you, she’s going to learn it from her peers at school.
Just like with conversations about sex and drugs, your child should learn the truth from you first.
So when your child does come to you with the question about Santa, (or when you’re ready to get honest), here’s why it’s ok to tell your child the truth about Santa.
You’ll be in control of your child’s behaviors, not Santa.
As I mentioned in my previous post, parents waaaaaay to often use Santa as the parent. Tell me how many times you’ve heard yourself say: “Be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Or have your heard your child say “If I’m good can Santa buy me this Barbie?“ The problem with invoking Santa as the disciplinary figure: It doesn’t address the issue at hand now, because Christmas morning isn’t here, right now.
Your child’s behavior should not be contingent on a mythical character who doesn’t even live in your home. This dis-empowers you as a parent.
So behavior wise, the extra bonus of getting real about Santa is that you won’t be tempted to use him to keep your kid in check. Not including Santa in your parenting decisions means you maintain your power by setting your boundaries and letting your child know you the parent will follow through. (Same thing with the Elf On the Shelf. Your kid needs to know YOU are watching. Why? Because you ARE the one watching your kid).
You’ll minimize the post-Santa let down.
Think of it this way. The more years you keep this going the harder the let down. Think about something in your life that you believed in strongly. Then think about the moment you realized that it wasn’t true. How did you feel? What thoughts went through your mind?
The younger you transition Santa out of one of your Christmas rituals, the lesser the let down and the more capable your child will handle it emotionally (in fancy speak, this is called cognitive flexibility).
You won’t be lying about Santa to your child anymore.
You might balk when I say this but yes, that’s what you’ve been doing all these years. And when has it ever been OK to lie to your child when your child is not allowed to lie to you? Relationships are built on trust, and trust is built with honesty.
I bet you’re worried about telling the truth because then you have to admit you lied. Just as you tell your child to come clean, it’s good for you to model it too. You want to have this conversation before she starts to question what other things you’ve told her aren’t true.
Bottom line: Your child eventually will figure it out on her own. If you’ve kept up the myth because you feel too guilty or uncomfortable to talk about it, and your child has already figured it out, she may be wondering why you have lied to her for so long. Don’t let it get to that point. And trust me, you’ll feel better too.
So how do you tell your child the truth about Santa?
Here are some great articles to read for some ideas:
Please comment below: How do you feel about the “Santa conversation.” If you’ve talked to your child about Santa, what did you say? How did it go?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health.