Christmas is a fun time for children, and Santa is a big part of that. But there comes a time when every child begins to question the Santa myth; how should parents handle this transition? Last year I posted an article about Santa and discovered some excellent methods readers use; but not all methods are equally good.
1. Don’t Tell the Child Santa is Real to Begin With
This is what we did with our son. We enjoyed the Santa fantasy, sang the Santa songs, had prominent Santa decorations, and one year I even dressed up in a Santa suit for him. But we never told him Santa was real. We all had great fun with Santa and I don’t think he missed anything by being aware that Santa was only pretend.
This was our choice; I don’t necessarily think all parents should go this route.
2. Do Not Support the Santa Myth at All
One day a mother was looking through a book bargain table for children’s books. There happened to be a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I recommended highly. She was adamant: ‘I don’t buy fiction for my kids! I only buy them things that are true.’
I think this is so sad; fantasy and fiction often teach real lessons and truths in a way that children can absorb them. They also stimulate the child’s imagination and expand their minds to new thoughts and possibilities. Factual books are important, but to rob children of the wonder and enrichment of experiencing fantasy seems so sad to me. Children understand that fiction stories are pretend.
Parents sometimes take the same course with Santa—no Santa, no way, no how! Some consider Santa incompatible with the ‘real’ Christmas, so Santa is excluded from Christmas altogether. I believe parents must make their own best decisions on this for their children, but this would not be my choice.
3. Insist that Santa is Real for as Long as Possible
It is natural (and desirable) for children to begin, at some point, to question whether Santa is real; but some parents respond by insisting to their questioning children that Santa IS real! It is though they want to prolong the child’s wonder for as long as possible; or perhaps they, personally, want to continue experiencing the child’s excitement instead of allowing them to grow and mature.
Whatever the reason, this can be a traumatic time for the child as they are torn between what their parents tell them and what they can see for themselves. We will talk further about this in the next post.
4. Introduce the Child Early to the True Story of Saint Nicholas
A number of readers of my 2016 Santa post shared a couple positive and delightful approaches they use in the Santa transition. The first has to do with a real, historical figure.
Dave says simply:
Teach them about Saint Nicholas.
I love the idea of telling them about St. Nicholas!
While Matthew says:
As long as the kids are let down gently with that book about the real St. Nicholas or something, eh, no biggie.
I think introducing the story of the real Saint Nicholas is a great idea, whether it comes instead of treating Santa as real or whether it is part of the later transition. It explains the roots of the Santa Claus myth and also teaches about a genuine historical figure from early Christianity.
5. Participate in the Child’s Transition from Belief in Santa by Letting Them Become Santas
Several readers last year introduced an approach to the Santa transition I had never previously heard of—letting THEM become Santas!
Helping children to transition from getting stuff from Santa to giving stuff AS Santa is a developmental step in maturing.
When they begin to question it is time to teach them to be Santa. Santa lives in the hearts of those who keep the tradition.
Jean expands on this idea, saying that she:
Saw something about a dad that tells his kids when he starts to notice they’re guessing the truth. He compliments them on having grown up so much. Tells them he’s noticed their noticing that all the Santa’s at the stores are different people. So the folks have decided it’s time for the child to become a Santa too. A project is assigned. To think of or find someone who probably doesn’t feel loved and come up with a gift that will let them know they are loved…to just leave the present from “Santa.” One could of course tell WHY we bother…because of Christmas day.
Marie seems to refer to the same story:
I saw something fantastic the other day but can’t seem to find it again. It was a parent who, when kids were old enough, let them in on the “Santa secret” – because they were now old enough to be Santa themselves! And then their Santa responsibility was to find someone who needed something and gift it to them anonymously. I thought this was amazing.
This was all totally new to me, but I loved it at once! It was even nicer when another reader shared this video.
There Are a Number of Ways to Handle The Santa Issue
It’s up to parents to decide how to talk to their children about Santa, and there are several good ways to go about it—but I think #3 is potentially very harmful; we will talk about that next time.
May you and the children in your life enjoy the Santa myth this Christmas in appropriate ways!
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