The holiday season is officially upon us, and with it comes an age-old concern for parents of young children: When to have the “Santa” Talk. It’s inevitably going to happen. But when is it appropriate to tell your kids “the truth” about Santa?
Laura Reagan, counselor, believes that parents should take cues from their children’s questions about Santa in order to decide when to give the “Santa” talk.
“I would say usually by the time that kids are like seven or eight, they’re asking. When that happens, you can give them the message about how Santa is really about the spirit of the holiday season,” Reagan said. “I think that when you talk to kids about Santa, you’re really talking about the spirit of giving and kindness and what the holidays are all about, more than a fantasy character.”
Becky Wade, a bestselling author of contemporary romance, uses fantasy characters to facilitate The Santa Talk. She suggests that parents use an analogy of characters from books and movies when having the talk.
“If a child has a favorite character from a Disney movie that they absolutely love, or if they have an imaginary friend sometimes that they play with at home, you can use that kind of example to explain who Santa is as someone they love,” Wade said. “We love our imaginary friends or we talk to our stuffed animals. He can still be real in the imagination.”
Sometimes, children hear the truth about Santa in school from kids or teachers.
Angela Ruth Strong, journalist and author of fictional love stories, encourages schoolteachers to have an “open discussion” about Santa but advises them to not ruin it for someone else’s child who doesn’t yet know the truth about Santa Claus.
Laurie Tomlinson, inspirational romance author and mother of two, shares a similar view.
“I have told my child that some kids truly believe Santa is real, and she is welcome to use her imagination and play along,” Tomlinson said. “But I wouldn’t encourage her to lie to a kid if the situation presented itself.”
Anthony Hackett, an actor/director/filmmaker/producer and father to two young girls, has three tips for parents who are ready to have The Santa Talk with their children:
Tip #1: Be honest when you have the talk; give them the full truth. Sit down with them and bring the facts about these things. Don’t just say that Santa doesn’t exist. Tell them why Santa doesn’t exist. So be honest but also bring them facts to support that honesty.
Tip #2: Let them know what other people might think or believe about Santa. So don’t just tell them the truth, but also share with them other cultural traditions the rest of the world has around Santa.
Tip #3: Have fun with them. Don’t make it too much of a serious topic, it’s just Santa. At some point, they’re going to grow out of it. I don’t know of any 18-year-old who believes in Santa. So it’s not something to take too serious, have fun with it.
Marie Choppin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C), has two tips for parents who want to have The Santa Talk with their kids but aren’t quite sure how to broach it:
Tip #1: Set aside a time when you know your child is not cranky, hungry or tired. Choose a time when they’re going to be able to handle news like this. Don’t do it right before the holidays because they already may think Santa is real and to burst their bubble would be upsetting. Maybe a good time for the talk would be before Thanksgiving but not the night before Christmas.
Tip #2: If there are other kids in the family, keep it alive for the younger ones. Be aware of and share what you want to have your older child do with that information if there are younger children. So if you’ve got an eight-year-old that really is questioning Santa and you’ve got a three-year-old who absolutely still believes, you can say, “Remember, we still want to keep it alive because it is fun to think about. Keep it a secret until your younger siblings are older.” This way, it doesn’t trickle down to “Oh, guess what guys? There’s no Santa!”
Betsy St. Amant, author and blogger, hasn’t yet had The Santa Talk with her daughter, but says she has a feeling that it will happen soon. She’s determined to be truthful when she has the talk and shared her thoughts for parents who are going to have the talk this Christmas.
“At the end of the day, honesty and trust is vital,” St. Amant said. “Our kids need to trust us, and if we’re lying, that’s hard to do. Every parent wants to encourage their kid in the magic of Christmas, and that’s fine! But it reaches a point—which is at a different age and stage for every kid—when you have to be careful not to blatantly lie, even if that means it’s time to burst the Santa bubble. Trust is more important than holiday fables.”
Alexis A. Goring is a writer who loves helping people through the art of storytelling.
Marie Choppin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C) and Laura Reagan, psychotherapist (MSW, LCSW-C) answer your questions about The Santa Talk