5 Ways to Approach the Santa Issue with Questioning Children

Christmas is a fun time for both children and parents; and Santa is a big part of that. But the time comes when every child begins to question the Santa myth. How should parents handle this transition? There are multiple options, and none of them suits every family.

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 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, but I don’t necessarily think all parents should go this route.

2. Do Not Support the Santa Myth at All

One day I saw a mother in a store 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 I think robbing children of the wonder and enrichment of fantasy is a great loss. Children understand that fiction stories are pretend.

Some parents take the same path with Santa—no Santa, no way, no how! Some consider Santa incompatible with the ‘real’ Christmas, so Santa is totally excluded from Christmas. I believe parents must make their own best decisions 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 as 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. I believed my parents when they told me Santa was real because I trusted them and believed anything they told me—because they said it was true. So I felt betrayed when they finally told me otherwise. It was a breach of my trust in our partnership of truthfulness.

There can also be other negative consequences. I remember kids at school being ridiculed and bullied by other kids for believing in Santa as they became older. And I recall kids who concluded that there is no God because ‘he is just a story like Santa’.

4. Introduce the Child Early to the True Story of Saint Nicholas

x Saint Nicholas

A number of readers of my similar post a few years ago shared a couple of positive and delightful approaches they use in the Santa transition. The first has to do with a the real, historical figure of Saint Nicolas:

  • Teach them about Saint Nicholas.

  • I love the idea of telling them about St. Nicholas!

  • 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 also introduced an approach I had not heard previously—letting THEM become Santas!

One related this story about a dad who:

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.

Another reader mentioned:

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, though I think #3 is potentially very harmful. May you and the children in your life enjoy the Santa myth this Christmas in appropriate ways!

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.

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15 Responses to 5 Ways to Approach the Santa Issue with Questioning Children

  1. quadratus says:

    Yes! Santa is dangerous! As soon as they can sit up on their own, we must be sure to tell all the kiddos that Santa is fake, that many of their friends will be living a seasonal lie and Christmas is a bogus “holiday” concocted by the evil Capitalists in order to enrich themselves off of the slaving backs of the mindless populace.

    But we shouldn’t stop there, because when they’re 2, 3, 4 years old, children mustn’t hold dangerous childhood fantasies! They need to understand the truth of life and learn to live in reality. While we’ve got their attention about this fake ‘Santa’ character, let’s show them pictures of battlefield corpses, victims of serial killers and children dying of cancer. Let’s read them the ‘true stories’ of slaughtered Amalekite infants, murdered Egyptian firstborns and the slaying of the little ones.

    Seriously, though; I think Santa is fun and kids enjoy the magic and wonder of Christmas, and in my experience the kids figure it out on their own pretty quickly. An attentive and diligent parent can be aware of the clues and signals. But like you said, Tim, 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.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Quadratus, I agree that Santa is fun; but I think if we push the reality of Santa after they begin questioning that it becomes misleading and can have negative results. This happened in my family.

      Like

  2. doulos68 says:

    Add Easter Bunny (or is it now Spring Break Bunny?) to the list, and add tooth fairy and a host of modern digital virtual realities (Transformers comes to mind). At the end of the day, these subliminal characters on Satan’s stage make one thing clear; the most predominant, unshakable, and persevering figure in a child life should be Jesus. He will handle the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have never taught our kids about Santa. However, I’ve noticed that they tend to believe in Santa anyways, even though I’ve taught and will state bluntly that he doesn’t exist. I realized, though, that it may be best to let them believe, even though I’m not going to encourage it directly. C.S. Lewis always said that allowing children to believe in fantasy prepares them to believe in someone as big as God or Jesus Christ, and so maybe I’ll just let them be kids for now. It’s not like it will last forever, and I won’t have to explain why I lied to them, like so many parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: 5 Ways to Approach the Santa Issue with Questioning Children — Jesus Without Baggage – INTROVERTED EVANGELIST

  5. astandardtoliveby says:

    Tim, I watched the video you linked in this post and was deeply touched. That is truly the best response to the “Santa” problem, and is a beautiful example of helping a child to develop empathy and giving! Santa is a paradox (something that life seems to be full of) in the sense that he is real when we become him.

    On another note, maybe this is something that depends upon the individual. bit I have always enjoyed fiction stories while growing up (still do!) and have learned and pondered many things while reading them. Bonding with a fictional character and empathizing with their struggles can help to open the heart, and having an open heart is the key to the Kingdom!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Chuck Gatlin says:

    My mother took a slightly different approach. When I questioned the number of “Santa’s” I saw at different locations, she replied that he had many helpers, and to treat them all as if they were his representatives. To my direct question “Is Santa real?” her answer was “Yes; he’s the spirit of Christmas.” She didn’t elaborate, and she didn’t waver. (She also never lied to me, ever.) She cautioned me that it would be wrong to tell a younger child that there was no Santa, because the effect would be to make myself more important at the cost of spoiling something for someone else–that is, even if I didn’t believe, it was important that people come to their own conclusions about things.
    I think this worked because she never lied to me about other things, even for expediency. I came to believe, soon enough, that she could be wrong about things; she could be mistaken, but she never lied. I don’t have children myself, but I have seven nieces and nephews, and seven grand-nieces and nephews (and a great-grandniece on the way). I always held to my mother’s approach to Santa, although I’m not sure I have kept completely to her high standard of truth. And I still believe that Santa is real, although I am enthusiastically one of his helpers. When we act for Santa Claus, we should remember that we thus represent the Spirit of Christmas.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. fiddlrts says:

    I was raised in essentially an “Anti-Santa” home. In retrospect, that approach wasn’t particularly harmful the way my parents did it, although I think they worried too much about it. In our household, I don’t think we ever really did the Santa thing like that, but I doubt my kids would have bought it anyway – my second daughter was more prone to asking awkward questions like “do animals like to be eaten” pretty much as soon as she could talk. On the other hand, they love mythology, so it wasn’t a big issue. We aren’t afraid of Santa themed wrapping paper or feel we have to explain that he isn’t real.

    Regarding #2 above, my wife was raised around people (in a Fundie cult group) who literally believed that. Missionary biographies and the Bible were all the kids were allowed to read. (My wife’s family are readers, so she had no such restrictions.) Of all the approaches, that one is (in my opinion) by far the most damaging. To deny children the opportunity for imagination, wonder, and fantasy is abusive in my opinion. I think it also will backfire for many as soon as the children discover there is life outside the bubble.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Fiddlrts, I agree. I don’t think lying to kids about Santa is good, but fantasy, in itself, is not lying. I can be very rich and healthy.

      Like

  8. newtonfinn says:

    Another somewhat off-topic poem from JourneyWithJesus.net. Gaudete means rejoice.

    Brad Reynolds
    Gaudete
    Because Christmas is almost here
    Because dancing fits so well with music
    Because inside baby clothes are miracles.
    Gaudete
    Because some people love you
    Because of chocolate
    Because pain does not last forever
    Because Santa Claus is coming.
    Gaudete
    Because of laughter
    Because there really are angels
    Because your fingers fit your hands
    Because forgiveness is yours for the asking
    Because of children
    Because of parents.
    Gaudete
    Because the blind see.
    And the lame walk.
    Gaudete
    Because lepers are clean
    And the deaf hear.
    Gaudete
    Because the dead will live again
    And there is good news for the poor.
    Gaudete
    Because of Christmas
    Because of Jesus
    You rejoice.

    Liked by 1 person

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