"Is Santa Claus real?"My response is this:
"Tell your kids the truth!"Why would I say that? Aren't I destroying the dreams of children? Am I becoming some kind of Grinch? Surely that's cruel to destroy their faith in the mythical fat man who commands flying reindeer on his annual skyhigh worldwide circumnavigation of the globe, dispensing gifts that make children's wishes come true!
Au contraire. I love Christmas, and I love the concept and history (the ancient history) of Saint Nicholas.
But I'm a big believer that our children should be told the truth - when they ask the relevant questions.
What does the research say?
Well, the research doesn't say anything about Santa (that I've seen). But it is instructive around kids and lies. Children seem to have reasonable lie detection abilities by the age of around 4 years. Of course, they have to be looking for the lie. So if they're not questioning Santa, then deception will last until they start wondering.
Research also tells us that when we are on the receiving end of lies, including white lies, that our trust in the liar is undermined (duh).
In spite of this, we still lie!
What should I do?
THE KEY is to stop each time you consider lying and ask "why" you want to lie to your kids. All too often (though not always) lying is seen as a short-cut because we can't be bothered spending the time talking through things with our children. So we lie. We cover it up. We put a band-aid over it.
Over time, those lies will come back to bite us.
Instead, consider these do's and don'ts if you have to break some bad news about Santa (or other life challenges) to your kids:
- Do make sure you can be fully present with them
- Do explain things briefly and clearly
- Do wait patiently, responding to their processing with empathy, honesty, clarity, and patience
- Do SHUT UP after you've said a bit - and just listen
- Don't break the news in front of an audience
- Don't break the news when you're in a hurry
- Don't expect them to be cool with it
- Don't overshare!
Try these ideas:
1. Tell them the truth - you're Santa
2. Google the history of Santa and share the inspiring aspects about the history of Saint Nick
3. Explain that the tradition of Saint Nicholas continues today with parents sharing gifts with their children, and that you'll keep being Santa until they reach a certain age.
4. Talk with your kids about ways that you might play Santa as a family for others in need in your community
5. Remind the kids to keep it quiet! Let other kids enjoy the myth until they require our honesty.
The Final Word
Kids can know the truth about Santa and still find Christmas fun. My kids have each discovered the truth by asking questions and getting the answers truthfully. Santa still visits them. They still love Christmas.