How to Deal With the "Is Santa Claus Real" Question

Four Methods:Assessing the SituationTelling Your Child the TruthSticking to the Santa StoryCelebrating as Your Child Gets Older

Every child who has ever been introduced to Santa Claus wonders, at some point, if he is real. This can be an uncomfortable time for any parent, having to decide whether or not to lie to your child or if they’re ready for the truth. Here are some steps that you can take to navigate a potentially sticky situation if your child asks you about Santa Claus, and, if you still believe in Santa, continue believing.

Method 1
Assessing the Situation

  1. 1
    Consider your own feelings. You may be uncomfortable perpetuating the Santa story or feel discomfort about lying to your child, and those are legitimate concerns shared by many. On the other hand, you may want your child to believe in something whimsical and magical, like Santa Claus. How to deal with the Santa Claus story is a personal decision that can only be made by your family.[1]
    • Remember, though, that even if you do not share the Santa story in your own family, your child might still come to you with tricky questions about Father Christmas.
  2. 2
    Find out what inspired the question. Perhaps they heard something at school or they've thought about the Santa story and it doesn't completely make sense. Acknowledge the question and praise them for their critical thinking. This is actually a positive developmental step. Determining their reason for asking will help you figure out the best way to proceed.[2]
    • You might give this question some thought before it ever comes up, so that you are not caught completely off guard. This will help you respond more thoughtfully and slowly, rather than be reactionary.
    • Ask your child very plainly, “why do you ask?” or “where is this question coming from?”
  3. 3
    Ask what the child believes. Just because the child is asking questions doesn't necessarily mean that they are emotionally ready to believe the truth. They may just be curiously probing. Asking what your child believes will give you an idea of where they are emotionally and cognitively. If your child indicates that they still believe in Santa, despite any outside doubts, it's likely not time to tell them the truth yet.[3]
    • Respond to your child’s question with a simple, "Well, what do you believe?" This allows them to reflect on what they think and whether or not they believe in Santa Claus.
  4. 4
    Follow your child’s lead. When your child answers your question about what they believe, they will tell you that they don’t think Santa is real, or that they do but that they have questions. This answer should guide how you proceed and you can either tell them the truth about Santa or let them continue to believe.
    • They may also say that they do believe the story of Santa Claus, but are confused about something specific in the Santa story, such as how he gets around the world in one night, or fits all of the presents in one bag. Just reiterate whatever you’ve already told them and answer questions as best as you can.

Method 2
Telling Your Child the Truth

  1. 1
    Tell the historical story of Santa. If you feel your child is ready for the truth, there are different ways to approach the conversation. Explaining who "Santa" really is rather than simply saying he isn’t real can help make the transition a lot easier. Whether you’re religious or not, explaining to your child how Santa Claus came to be as we know him today and the history of the tradition, all the way back to the real Saint Nicholas, may lessen any disappointment they feel and encourage them to help others.[4]
    • You can shift their imagination’s focus from the Santa Claus seen in malls and on television to the exciting and robust history of Santa, a history that goes all the way back to the actual person, Saint Nicholas.[5]
  2. 2
    Explain various traditions. Your child might be interested to know that people celebrate Christmas all over the world and that each tradition has its own version of Santa Claus.[6] This will reinforce the idea that Santa is not any one person, but a holiday spirit and tradition that is appreciated by people across the globe.
    • In many parts of Switzerland, for example, a large parade is held in which people march with artistic representations of Saint Nicholas. There are instruments, animals, children, and processions in the parade, not to mention the 1700 people walking in the main parade.
    • In the United States, Santa Claus has become a symbol of generosity, jolliness, and giving. He travels the world in one night, leaving presents under the Christmas tree for all good children.
    • In Austria, on the other hand, children leave their empty shoes outside their bedroom doors or on windowsills to find them filled in the morning by St. Nicholas.
  3. 3
    Prepare for an emotional response. Your child is likely to be just fine upon hearing the truth about Santa Claus and will not need reassurance or have an emotional response. However, some children do feel confused or even betrayed, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Fortunately, if there is any negative reaction, it should not last very long.
    • Don’t force your child to explain why they feel badly. They might not even know the words for what they’re feeling. Just take the conversation at their pace and encourage them to talk with you.
    • Ask more questions if they’re having difficulty talking to you. For example, “are you upset that Mommy told you that Santa Claus was real or are you feeling embarrassed because you enjoyed the story so much?” This will help you figure out how to direct the conversation.
    • When you explain why you promoted the story of Santa, use “I” language: “I wanted you to experience…,” or, “I hoped that you would…,” or, “I believed that it was best because…” This language is active and claims ownership, not putting any responsibility on the child.
    • Acknowledge how your child is feeling by saying something like, “I understand that this might feel confusing and that you’re upset with me. I’d like us to talk more about it so that I can explain.”
    • You can also say, “I respect how you’re feeling right now and it was never my intention to betray your trust. I encouraged the story of Santa Claus because it represents what I hold dear about Christmas: kindness, giving, and generosity. I would like very much to talk about your feelings and I want you to know that you can trust me.”
    • Let your child know that they are your biggest priority and that your job is to love, nurture, and protect them and that you would never do anything to violate their trust. Then explain, again, why you chose to participate in the story of Santa Claus, your interpretation of Christmas, and that Santa isn’t a lie, but a mysterious story meant to spread joy.
  4. 4
    Choose a middle ground. Some parents opt to tell their child that Santa is not any one person, but instead, the sentiment of the season and is really everyone.[7] You could write them a letter or simply explain to them what the season means to your family, emphasizing that Christmas is about joy and giving.
    • This would be a great time to ask them to be one of “Santa’s Helpers,” a person who helps fill stockings and arrange presents for others.

Method 3
Sticking to the Santa Story

  1. 1
    Reinforce the Santa Claus story. There are several fun ways to reassure your child that Santa Claus exists and will be coming to visit on Christmas Eve.[8]
    • Norad[9] allows you to track Santa as he makes his annual trek across the world.
    • Leave a plate for treats for Santa on Christmas Eve so that he has a lovely snack while at your house.
    • Use special Santa-only paper to wrap presents with.
    • Send something to your child from Santa, like a letter or postcard.
    • Have your child sprinkle reindeer food outside on Christmas Eve.
  2. 2
    Retell the story of Santa Claus. Fortunately, there are thousands of books that tell stories about Santa Claus. Read these books to your child, which will show them several sides to Santa and Mrs. Claus, his reindeer, the North Pole, and even how the elves make all the presents. These stories will help reinforce the meaning behind Santa Claus – generosity, whimsy, and giving – while bringing Santa to life in your child’s imagination.[10]
    • Booksellers can often recommend age-appropriate books about Santa Claus and Christmas.
    • Use a search engine to find book titles and summaries that you might be interested in reading to your child.
    • Your local librarian is the best resource around. Going to the library and asking your librarian for recommendations has a few benefits: librarians know more about books than anyone, the books are free to check out, and you can leave the library with several books in hand to read rather than wait for them to be shipped to your house.
  3. 3
    Take pictures with Santa. Having your child’s picture taken with Santa Claus allows them to experience the story of Santa with their senses, not just their imagination. They can sit on Santa’s lap, have their picture taken, and even tell Santa Claus what they’d like for Christmas. This four-dimensional experience reinforces the realness of Santa Claus.
    • Your child might be uncomfortable seeing Santa in person and may even cry. That’s a normal reaction, especially when your child is very young, and just shows their fear of strangers and the unfamiliar. Don’t force them to sit on Santa’s lap, and reassure them that you are there and that they are safe.
    • They might ask why the Santa they just met looks different than the Santa they saw on television. You can say, “Well, Santa is very busy this time of year getting ready for Christmas Eve, so he has helpers all over the world, and you just met one of his helpers. Don’t worry, he will tell Santa how good you were and what you asked for.”

Method 4
Celebrating as Your Child Gets Older

  1. 1
    Acknowledge their feelings. Your child may be disappointed upon hearing the truth, or perhaps even upset because they may feel betrayed or tricked. If this happens, acknowledge their feelings and make sure to explain why you let them believe in the magic of Santa Claus. Also let them know that your intention was not to mislead them, but that
  2. 2
    Don’t tell others. Explain to your child that everyone asks this question when they’re ready, and that they should respect that their classmates may not have asked their families yet. To be respectful, they should not share their new knowledge and they should definitely not make fun of anyone who believes in Santa Claus. Remind your child about the spirit of Christmas and how magical it was for them to believe, and that they wouldn’t want to take that from anyone.[11]
    • You can simply say, “Let other kids believe until they’re ready to learn the truth, just like you did.”
    • You can also say, “Not telling others about Santa is a new and important job that you have, and I’m counting on you.”
  3. 3
    Appreciate what Santa is. Remind your child that Santa embodies the spirit of Christmas, and that is why you have chosen to embrace the story. This is also an excellent time to remind your child of the religious reasons for Christmas, if you celebrate them. You can also talk with your child about what you and they appreciate most about the Santa Claus story and figure out how to incorporate those elements into future Christmas celebrations.
  4. 4
    Support one another. The Santa question is not only tricky, it represents a family transition from one of belief in a fictional, well-loved character, to a more mature appreciation of what Santa Claus represents and how that relates to Christmas. The transition might be a little uncomfortable, or even sad, for everyone, and that’s to be expected. Remind one another that Santa Claus is a myth that your family enjoyed and that you had a wonderful time sharing the magic, and most importantly, that you look forward to future Christmases together.[12]
  5. 5
    Start new traditions. Now that your child has a new understanding of Santa Claus, your Christmas celebrations will change a bit. A productive and positive way to handle this transition is to start new traditions. Ask your child to help you think of new traditions that you can participate in as a family, keeping the spirit of Santa Claus alive.[13]
    • You might decide that you’ll bake and wrap cookies to deliver to your neighbors.
    • Work with a charity to sponsor a family that is less fortunate than yours.
    • Go through your belongings and have your child go through theirs, finding donate-able items that others might enjoy.
    • Send Christmas cards to soldiers stationed overseas who won’t be able to come home for the holidays.


  • Keep the explanation simple and to the point.
  • Your child may waver on what they believe, and that’s totally normal. It just means they’re working it all out to the best of their ability.


  • While it may be uncomfortable for you, help your child understand the story and truth behind Santa when they’re ready rather than force them to believe.

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Categories: Christmas for Kids