When my son was younger I, like many other parents at this time of year, went to great lengths to weave the special magic that is Santa Claus – I supervised as he carefully wrote his painstakingly detailed letter to Santa, we waited dutifully in line at the mall so he could have his picture taken with the Big Guy, we thoughtfully left gingerbread cookies and milk for old St. Nick on Christmas Eve (and snacks for the reindeer, too!). He believed wholly and unquestioningly in Santa, and as that belief was nurtured and grew year after year, I started suffering from what I call ‘Claus’-trophobia – a fear of the day when my son would question the existence of his beloved Santa Claus.
I was recently asked by FamilyCorner.com to write about this very subject – here are some points to consider when your child eventually asks you: is Santa real?
Listen to their concerns: Lend an ear first before you begin any explanations. Give them your undivided attention; if they come to the conclusion on their own, share with them the story about how you found out the truth about Santa when you were their age. Kids are intuitive and sometimes know the answers to their own questions, and just need a sympathetic ear from parents.
Be prepared for their reaction: Some kids might take the news in stride, as I did when I found out the truth. My parents were a little sloppy in hiding the presents, so after finding way too many new toys under their bed one year the secret was out. And I was okay with it. As long as everything else stayed the same and I could still pretend that Santa was real even though I knew he wasn’t, things were cool.
Others may feel betrayed – as my son did when the curtain was pulled back on this part of his childhood. To this day I still feel awful as I recall the hurt in his eyes as he incredulously accused, “you mean. . . you’ve been LYING to me all these years???” Yes, that was a bad, ugly day.
And, some may cry. So. Many. Tears. It can be a momentous event – having doubts, kids turn to their parents for confirmation of Santa’s existence, only to find out otherwise. Help kids feel better with an explanation that, although he’s not any one real person (but really mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, etc.), the symbolism of Santa Claus embodies the true spirit of Christmas – the joy of giving and putting others first. Remind them how wonderful it feels to be with family and friends, the special traditions you share at this time of year, the significance of any religious customs in your family, and reassure them that there will still indeed be presents on Christmas morning! Let them know that the Christmas spirit is very real, even if Santa Claus isn’t.
Enlist their help: This is a good time to let them know what an important role they can play in the preparations if they feel ready for it. Now that they know “the truth,” they can help in making the holiday special for the younger members of the family. Recruit them to help shop, wrap presents and fill stockings. Have them help the younger kids with their letters to Santa. Asking them for their help in maintaining the tradition will add a positive new dimension to the experience.
A sympathetic ear and a positive outlook can help take the sting out of the big reveal. After the shock wore off (and he was able to trust me again), my son began to enjoy taking a more grown-up role in the preparation and festivities of the Christmas season, and keeping the lie – I mean, the magic – of Santa Claus alive for the little ones in our family (and the big ones, too!).
Have you had to face the “Santa Situation” with your kids yet? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments!