I recently had the Santa talk with my oldest not too long ago. I think it was harder on me than it was on him! While he might have been ready for the truth, I wasn’t ready for him to lose the wonder and the magic of the big man in red.
He’d been pestering his dad and me for weeks about “the truth about Santa” and it wasn’t the first time, either. Last year he told us that some of the kids at school were saying Santa wasn’t real. We asked him if he wanted to risk not believing and not getting a present. He chose to keep the faith for one more Christmas.
When he asked again early this fall, I placated him with a white lie that mom and dad were simply Santa’s helpers. But as the holiday got closer, he started pressing with more urgency and was visibly upset at our attempts to sidestep the question. So we decided to tell him the truth.
Can they handle the truth of the Santa talk?
Before telling him, I asked him what he thought was the truth about Santa. He told me again how kids at school said Santa wasn’t real, and that he thought it was parents who were lying to kids. I asked him several times if he was sure he was ready. He assured me that he was. I asked him to promise me that if I told him the truth, he wouldn’t say anything to people who still believed, like his little brother. He promised. I took a big breath, then confirmed his suspicions that Santa was indeed not real.
To my surprise, he took the revelation quite well, with just an “I thought so” of acknowledgement. We talked about why grownups make believe (not lie!) with the magic of Santa, and the spirit of the holiday season. He was very accepting of it all, and has kept his promise about not spilling the beans to his brother. (He even played along when it was time to write letters to Santa, without any encouragement!)
It didn’t take long for his brain to make the connection between Santa and the other holidays our family celebrates, though. He cautiously asked about the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. Nope, not real. Sorry kid. He seemed OK with that. “But mum, what about the spirit of Halloween?” he asked. He was most upset about that one. He then wanted to know what we did with his old teeth, and about 101 other white lies we as parents sometimes tell our children to make their childhoods magical.
No matter what age you plan to have the Santa talk with your child(ren), be prepared for a deluge of questions. Their brains will be rapidly trying to piece together the magic of a world they thought they knew, with the reality of the new world in front of them.
While there’s no magic age at which caregivers should have the Santa talk with kids, experts agree that letting your child take the lead is best. For many kids, this is sometime between the ages of eight and 12. If they start to seriously question the magic of Santa, they might be ready – you know your child best.
Where and when to have the Santa talk…
Find a calm, private, and quiet place to have the conversation. Your child might react nonchalantly, like my son, or they may become quite emotional – you probably don’t want to break the news in a public space. Depending on how your child reacts, validate their feelings and allow them to process any grief.
If you have younger children who still believe, enlist the help of your older child to keep the magic alive. You can also focus on other special holiday traditions your family takes part in, or, come up with a new one! Don’t forget to focus on the spirit of giving and gratitude that embodies this time of year.
My son now knows the truth about Santa, but now he also knows the truth about how much his dad and I love making magical moments for him and his brother. When I asked him if he wanted me to keep the magic going for him even though he knew the truth, he said yes. So, while a part of him has taken another step towards growing up (cue ugly mom tears) I’m taking some comfort in the fact that he wants to ho-ho-hold onto the magic just a little bit longer.
- How to Explain to Your Children That Santa Can’t Afford Everything They Want
- How to Handle Disappointment at Christmas
- 10 Tips to Survive Holiday Stress