Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What do I do when my child starts wondering about Santa Claus?

We want our children to be honest with us.  The best way to teach this is to be honest with them.  When it comes to topics like Santa, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy this becomes complicated.  We want our children to enjoy the “magic” of these special events but we know they will eventually find out the truth.  Most of us want to balance between the mom from Miracle on 34th Street who told her child from the earliest age that there is no Santa and the parent keeping the magic alive far past the normal age.   

On the one hand by encouraging your children to ask Santa for toys at Christmas, having them visit a local Santa and making cookies for him to eat Christmas Eve, you bring your children joy.  On the other hand it is a type of a lie. 

The easiest alternative is to tell your children from the beginning that the story of Santa is just that, a story.  You can tell your children the real stories of St Nick and all the legends of Santa Claus that are out there.  I don’t see any reason you can’t even have them visit Santa.  It can be a fun adventure, like visiting Disney World.  Most of the children understand that the characters are not real, they are made up.  But they often still get excited to see these characters.  Santa can be no different.  The story he brings of giving toys to children in need is a beautiful one.  It is very possible for your children to be excited about the character of Santa but understand it to be a story, not reality.   

A lot of parents though may have already gone down the road of a “real” Santa or you simply have preference and want to bring that magic into your children’s lives in a substantial way.  If this is the case then you probably already are aware there will come a time that you need to come clean.  

I think the most damaging thing for children when it comes to learning about Santa is how they find out.  It is usually from other children but sometimes it is from their own deductive reasoning.  If your child begins to question Santa, you can use it as an opportunity to encourage his detective skills.  “Wow, how did you figure out the mystery?  What were your clues?”   

When your children’s bubble is burst by an older sibling or school friends it can be more devastating because it may seem to them like you have been holding out.  Focus your attention on how your children are feeling about the issue and let that be your guide.  Help them with the deductive reasoning. 

If at this point you make up new stories and fabricate more lies to cover the original lie that can damage your relationship.  If you continue with the myth, when they eventually find out the truth they will not only be crushed but they will then remember you trying to continue with the lie.  This can be devastating, not only because Santa isn’t real, but because mom and dad lied to me about it to “make me behave better.”

Once your child starts questioning the truth, it is time to end the story.  However, you don’t need to just blurt out “Santa is not real.”  Be honest with your child and explain that your intention was to bring joy and excitement to him, not to hurt him.  Again you can praise the critical thinking that went into discovering the truth.    

It is better for you to tell your child a little too early about the true identity of Santa than it is to wait until he finds out from someone else. 


ChrisO said...

When our boys were little, Santa came every Christmas Eve, and filled our stockings and left them each a gift. He was a part of our celebration, but not the central part. He wasn’t omnipresent nor omniscient, but just a nice old man who brought them presents. When Joshua and Caleb were 5 years old, a little friend, whose family didn’t include Santa in their celebration, told my boys that Santa wasn’t real. Soon after that, Caleb asked me whether or not Santa was real. I told him that years ago there was a man named St. Nicholas who gave gifts to children, and that after he died other people wanted to continue his tradition and pretend to be Santa. He seemed ok with that explanation. Later that week, my husband took him to get his haircut, and the gal asked him if Santa was coming to his house. His response.... “No...Santa is dead”. :)

Marcia Hall said...

Chris, I love that story. "Santa is dead - sounds just like something Nadia will say some day. Thanks for sharing.