When Is The Best Time To Talk To Your Child About Santa?
Christmas is such a magical time of the year. It is a firm favourite in my house and having four little ones really adds an extra element of magic!
Santa’s visit is excitedly waited for and Christmas Eve is my favourite day of year. Leaving out Santa’s treats and his glass of milk, not forgetting a snack for Rudolph, little ones going to bed with butterflies in their bellies (hoping they don’t wake until the morning!).
So, when, as parents, should we put an end to all this magic? Is there ever a “right time”? Sometimes a child's logic - or maybe a friend - reveals a few inconsistencies in the Old Saint Nick story? How do you know when it's time to let your children in on the big secret?
The right time:
Research shows that the right time to tell your child is as soon as they ask. If they're old enough and curious enough to question, then they're old enough to know the truth.
The important thing is to take your cues from the child, and not try to prolong the fantasy for your own enjoyment when they may be ready to give it up.
When children start putting together in their minds that Santa Claus may not be real, they'll ask questions - and that's an opening for parents to get them talking about what's logical or not to them.
How do you break the news?
You can go about this in one of two ways: either be up-front about it and just confess, or to ask them to think critically about the logistics of it.
If the conversation ends with them finding out the truth, be careful to remind your child that other parents might not have told their kids yet or if they have younger siblings, it's a secret.
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 desire to know more of the truth.
Ask your child what other children have said about Santa, or what your child thinks about him. You will 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 have 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 is easy for children to foster a belief that Santa is real anyhow from friends, movies, and other media portrayals. Be careful not to assume that your child understands completely.
Explain the real story of Santa:
The real Santa Claus is based on Nicholas, a Greek child of wealthy parents who died when he was young. Nicholas was a Christian and decided to spend his inheritance on giving gifts and money to the poor. He was later Sainted and remains a much-loved historical figure within the Catholic Church. Taking the time to learn about St. Nicholas' life and ministry might help your child understand that Santa Claus is based on a real story.
Consoling your child:
Understand what upsets your child. If your child is upset by learning more of the truth about Santa, 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 apologise 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.
Carrying on the Christmas Spirit:
Tell your child that the traditions associated with Santa are just one way of expressing the joy of giving and your love for them. If you have younger children, let the older ones be responsible for stuffing stockings and being Santa's helper.