Tell me the truth . . . Is Santa real?
How you answer this loaded question can empower — or completely crush — your child’s spirit. This is a must-read article for parents of young children. Keep these tips in your pocket for that random Tuesday night when your little one unexpectedly throws this life-altering question at you.
Below is a parent-tested way to turn this tricky inquiry into a magical milestone for you and your child.
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We live in an age when children are growing up too fast. Part of me desperately wants to hold on to my girls’ innocence as they believe in the magic of Santa. However, last winter (when our girls were in first and second grade), her schoolmates were discussing and debating the topic among themselves on the playground. So I started to explore the topic with other parents and friends, asking, How do you hold onto the magic of the holidays as your kids get older? Especially when you know they might be getting mixed messages from other children and people in their lives?
If you’re dealing with a really young child, the best approach is to turn the question back on them, and simply ask, “What do YOU think?” You can tell how much a little one wants to talk about the topic by how easily you can redirect their attention. Chances are they’ll share their ideas and then move on to chatting about how much candy canes look like J’s, and that’ll be the end of “The Santa Talk” . . . for now.
Eventually, you will have to have that conversation, though. And when you do, you want to be prepared with that “just right” thing to say. So, read on for tips to help you be ready for when that fateful day happens to you . . .
Last December, my good friend was driving her nine-year-old daughter home from dance class one night when from the darkness of the backseat came a plea:
“Mom, tell me the TRUTH… Is Santa real?”
My friend’s first instinct was to reply something along the lines of, “Well, all I know is that kids who believe in Santa are the ones who get gifts in our house.” Yet, she could tell from the tone of her child’s voice that carrying on down that path was not going to cut it that night. She took a deep breath, pulled the minivan over, turned around to the backseat and instead said with a smile:
“Oh, honey. I’m so PROUD of you. You figured it out — the magic of Christmas. [She winked and gave her daughter’s hand a gentle squeeze.] I knew you could do it. This is so exciting! Now YOU get to be part of creating all the secret magic for your little brother. This is gonna be SOOOOOO MUCH FUN this year.
The tone of this happy and honest response will likely take your child by surprise. It helps eliminate any embarrassment they might feel and turn it into awakening pride for figuring out this larger-than-life secret that everyone but them seemed to be “in on.” It quickly flips their disappointment with you or the situation as a whole on its head and channels the funny feeling in their stomach into a moment of recognition for the celebrated milestone that just occurred. Suddenly, your child feels confident and honored to be part of the elaborate rouse being staged worldwide.
If you like, you can continue to explain that . . .
Santa’s not some guy in a big red suit who comes down the chimney — he’s so much more. He was a man, a saint from long ago, who was so unbelievably generous that he inspired others to also give charitably. So, in that way, the magic of Santa is in fact very real, since the SPIRIT OF SANTA lives on to this day. [Read this post from Martha Brockenbrough for additional inspiration.]
So what exactly does having your child “be part of the magic of Santa” mean? It could mean:
- Helping carry on the Santa tradition and secret for other little children in your family, church, or community
- Secretly gifting a family in need for the holidays (Click here to read more about Teaching the Joy of Giving to your children.)
- Ringing bells for the Salvation Army or donating to another charitable cause
- Baking treats for your local fire department
- Spreading holiday cheer in all manner of ways
Really, it’s a personal choice that’s up to you and your family to decide what feels right for you.
But you might start with entrusting your child with the all-important duty of secretly devouring the cookies and milk on Santa’s tray after everyone’s gone to bed on Christmas Eve, to be sure their little brother keeps believing in the magic of Santa. They’ll get a charge out of leaving some crumbs as “evidence,” and you’ll get the joy of seeing the twinkle in their eye as they partake in your family’s special traditions for keeping the world’s best-kept secret alive!
Be creative. Be yourselves. Be MAGICAL!
Let’s chat more in the comments, shall we? I’m sure you all have great ideas to share.
At its core, this post is really about parents helping parents. Two years ago, my friend Kerry Rose shared all of this Santa advice with me. Her girls are older than mine, so she’d already been through “The Santa Talk.” I thought her approach was brilliant!
I happened to share Kerry’s suggestions with another friend of mine — A week later, her own nine-year-old daughter caught her by surprise, asking for the truth about Santa. She called me, thanking me for sharing Kerry’s wonderful advice, going on and on about how well the conversation went because she’d been prepped to stay positive and treat it as an accomplishment with her daughter, instead of feeling disappointed or defensive.
And that, my friends, is why I’m sharing this advice with you, too. We parents need to stick together, learn from one another, and share these tried-and-true secrets so we can all be our best selves — on a random Tuesday night in December, and every other day of the year!
PS: Do you remember when you found out Santa wasn’t real? How old were you?
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