When my first-born came home one day and asked if Santa was real, my heart nearly broke in two. He was only six years old.
As a (rather self-righteous) first-time mum, I had decided I wouldn’t lie to the kids about Santa & co. if they asked me directly.
Some older boys at after school care had been talking about Santa not being real, obviously razzing up the younger ones. At the time I thought I was doing the right thing, answering his questions honestly and spilling the beans on the whole Santa caper.
As a sensible, practical kid he put 2 and 2 together. So, just like that, the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny got bumped off too. He took it quite well, all things considered and the consolation is he gets to help play Santa to the little ones. He quite likes that he’s “in” on the grown up secrets.
However, every year since learning the truth he has expressed regret as he watches his younger siblings get caught up in the magic of Santa. At the age of eleven, he still to this day wishes he didn’t know the truth. I also feel regret, like my decision to tell him took a part of his childhood magic away too soon.
However, with a four year old in the house, the magic of Santa will be in full force this year. There will be reindeer food sprinkled on the lawn, a carrot left for Rudolph and of course, milk and cookies for the big guy.
Also playing along will be my eight year old, who is still a firm believer, although I often wonder how long that will last. I can tell you, my lips are well and truly sealed!! I have learnt from other parents that his peer group is a mixed bunch of believers and not, so it is nice that the ones that know don’t spoil it for the others.
Everyone isn’t so kind though and I know a lot of parents decide to tell their longstanding believers the truth before they hit high school to save any embarrassment or teasing.
There are lots of beautiful ways to transition your child from believing in the magic of Santa to helping create it. You could start with the story of Saint Nicholas or just focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Here are some great examples of special letters to your child that explain the concept of Santa in a way that keeps the magic alive.
Some parents chose not to have “the talk” at all, letting their kids come to the realisation in their own time, with it never being a big thing. Many families run with the “if you don’t believe, you don’t receive” approach to keep a little bit of fun and magic alive, even if everyone knows the deal.
Other parents don’t think that it is right to let kids believe in something that isn’t true in the first place and don’t do Santa at all. And that’s absolutely their prerogative. I think when it comes to Santa, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny, it is just like any other belief system. We should respect the choices and beliefs of others. And we should teach our children to do the same.
Like all milestones, each child and family is unique. There isn’t any one right way to approach the Santa question. Be guided by your child, what feels right for you and do what fits with your family’s beliefs and traditions.