How to Tell Your Child Who Santa Is

Three Methods:Telling the Truth about Santa ClausConsoling Children About Santa ClausKeeping Up Traditions

Santa Claus presents a hopeful and exciting figure for children around the holiday season. But it’s important to decide how and when to tell your kids more about Santa when they start getting older and asking questions. Learn how to handle these potentially difficult conversations with ease.

Method 1
Telling the Truth about Santa Claus

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    Gauge your child’s feelings. Understand what your child feels and knows about Santa before complicating the truth about the myth. Keep up the story they know until they introduce some skepticism or desire to know more of the truth.
    • Ask your child what other kids have said about Santa, or what your child thinks about him. You’ll be able to tell if he or she believes wholeheartedly that he is real, in which case saying anything different will be met with severe disappointment or plain disbelief.
    • It may be that you’ve chosen from the beginning to opt out of telling the magical story of Santa delivering presents to children in one night. But even so, it’s easy for children to foster a belief that Santa is real anyway from friends, movies, and other media portrayals of the jolly red-clad man. Be careful not to assume that your child understands completely.
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    Let the question come up naturally. Wait to talk to your child about the truth of Santa Claus until he or she brings it up themselves. This way you know you are not springing new information on them too soon.
    • Allow your child to wait to hear rumors, put together clues, and otherwise use his or her reasoning skills to question what they know on their own. This can become a positive exercise in critical thinking rather than a disappointing revelation.
    • Turn your child’s question around. If he or she asks, “Mom/Dad, is Santa real?” you ask, “Well, what do you think?” and wait for the answer before giving anything away.[1]
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    Play a guessing game. Let your child guess who the real Santa Claus could be. Offer clues or options to choose from to make it an enjoyable experience.
    • Try listening to a Christmas song that your child likes and sing along to any lyrics that might hint at who Santa could be. “He knows when you’ve been bad or good” for example, can be a nudge in the right direction.
    • You can hint at subtle logic to start your child guessing on their own at who could be “playing” Santa. For example: “Hmm, who would be able to get into our house at night?” or “Who likes those cookies we leave out?
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    Explain the background of Santa. Let your child know that Santa was a real person or based on a real person if you want to. Explain Saint Nicholas or another origin of your choice.
    • Tell the story of St. Nicholas, who was well known as a gift-giver, a protector of children, and a man of great faith who spent his whole life and life savings to help those less fortunate than himself. Some people believe the red robes that St. Nicholas wore as a bishop inspired the famous red Santa suit.[2]
    • If you want to keep up some level of myth, you can say that Santa was a real person who is no longer around and that today there need to be lots of Santas, in the form of moms and dads, to do all the work of giving kids presents on Christmas.

Method 2
Consoling Children About Santa Claus

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    Explain that your child is “ready”. Let your child know that you are only telling him or her about Santa because you think they are old enough or ready to know the truth. Emphasize the positive accomplishment this represents, rather than being a letdown or lack of trust.
    • Give your child a hug and let him or her know how special, grown up, and wise they are now that they know more about Santa.
    • You can say, for example, “I’m so proud of you! You figured out the magic of Christmas! I knew you were ready to learn more about Santa because you’re such a smart girl/boy.”[3]
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    Show that Santa is still real in spirit. Explain that you and other parents keep up the spirit of Santa, which is still real and represents generosity, love, and fun for children all over the world.
    • You can explain that different people dress up and “pretend” to be Santa not to lie to children, but because they want Santa’s spirit to be real too, and because it’s fun to dress up and play pretend every once in awhile.
    • If your child has a hard time understanding how Santa embodies the “spirit” of Christmas, you can compare him to a team mascot, or a Disney character at Disney World, who both represent a character and story.[4]
    • Offer an opportunity for your child to show his or her own Santa qualities of generosity or giving. Find a toy drive or other volunteer opportunity that they can donate items that are unused or grown out of to children who may not have them.[5]
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    Understand what upsets your child. If your child is upset by learning more of the truth about Santa Claus, ask what bothers him or her about it. This can give you a better idea of how to console them.
    • If your child is upset that you lied to him or her, you can apologize genuinely and explain that the story is one that’s told to almost all children, and it’s part of growing up to figure out that there’s more to the story. Explain that it’s actually because you trust them that you decided to tell the full story.
    • If your child is upset by the possibility that no real Santa means no more gifts, writing letters, sitting on his lap, etc., you can assure him or her that gift-giving will still happen, and they can still go visit the man dressed as Santa in the mall if they want. Just because one knows the full truth of Santa doesn’t mean all the fun parts of Christmas go away.

Method 3
Keeping Up Traditions

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    Let Santa become a special secret. Make sure that your child knows that not everyone is ready to learn more about who Santa is. You can make it a special responsibility for your child to keep this secret for any younger siblings.
    • Let your child become a helper by giving them the responsibility of stuffing stockings for younger children after they have gone to bed, or another task that allows them to be involved in maintaining the ritual.[6]
    • If you have no younger children, you can ask your child to help keep the Santa story alive for other kids of the same age or younger at school who might not be ready to hear about Santa’s true story.
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    Explain that different families have different Santas. Make sure your child understands that other children and other families will choose to tell the story of Santa differently, or at different times. He or she should do their best to respect these differences.
    • For example, if another child says Santa leaves cookie crumbs in his or her house but “yours” doesn't, you can instruct your child that families simply have different Santa traditions, and that one is not better or more real than another.
    • You can also explain different ways of dealing with Santa by comparing the belief to religion, if that’s already something you’ve discussed with your child. You can point out that your child wouldn’t make fun of another child for celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas, so they also shouldn’t make fun of someone for believing Santa is real.[7]
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    Continue to play pretend. Know that just because you tell the truth about Santa doesn’t mean that your child can’t keep up a level of fantasy and make-believe about Christmas. Allow them to continue to act out elements of the story if they want to.
    • Offer your child the ability to act as Santa him or herself, or be an elf on Christmas eve, working to wrap presents for other family members and get the house set up for the holiday.
    • Remember that just like any other story, your child can understand that Santa and other characters may not be real, but can still enjoy the fantasy of it. You can laugh over the silliness of how Santa could ever visit every child’s house in one night while still appreciating the magic of an idea like the North Pole.

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Categories: Christmas for Kids