I didn’t grow up believing in Santa Clause. When I had kids, I figured they would grow up much the same. I didn’t mind involving him in our Christmas festivities as a fun character–much like Mickey Mouse or Elsa. But I never expected that my kids would actually be convinced that he was real.
We never give them gifts From Santa, we never talk about him coming down the chimney and bringing gifts. But apparently the narrative has pervaded our culture enough that somehow they were persuaded without their dad or I ever saying a word.
It didn’t help that their teachers at school told them point-blank that he is real. Sigh.
So we found ourselves in a situation that we never expected to be in: explaining to our kids that Santa isn’t real without lying or breaking their hearts.
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IS IT WRONG TO LIE ABOUT SANTA?
I don’t have a huge problem with people who want their kids to believe in the magic of Santa. One fib for the sake of fun isn’t likely to ruin your children or cause trust issues down the road.
But for our family, we want our kids to have full confidence that their parents will always tell them the truth. We want them to be able to trust us under any circumstances. Even if that means telling that Santa isn’t real.
5 WAYS TO EXPLAIN SANTA WITHOUT LYING
OPTION 1: WAIT UNTIL THEY STOP BELIEVING ON THEIR OWN
If you can ignore the issue for long enough, usually it will resolve itself. Kids are smart, and they figure things out. I don’t know any 18-year-olds who are still convinced that Santa is bringing their gifts on Christmas Eve.
Most kids will start to suspect that Santa is too good to be true around age 8, and by 12, most kids understand the truth whether their parents explain it to them or not.
The danger of ignoring the problem is that they’ll be the last among their friends to figure it out and wind up finding out from their peers and being embarrassed that they didn’t know. Being in middle school is hard enough without being made fun of for believing in Santa.
OPTION 2: THROW THE QUESTION BACK TO THEM
This is a great strategy for any of the inane questions that young children ask.
If they ask if Santa’s real, simply ask them “What do you think?” This tactic forces them to do a little thinking and problem solving on their own, and doesn’t require any commitment in one direction or another from you.
If your kid totally catches you off of guard with the whole “Is Santa real?” question, this is a great way to buy yourself some time while you think through what you really want to tell them.
OPTION 3: GIVE OR READ THEM THIS PRINTABLE SCRIPT
If you just want to hit the easy button and give them an explanation that’s already laid out, you might find one of these printable letter responses to the question “Is Santa real?” to be very helpful.
It has a whole script that you can simply read to or with your child, or give it to them to have them read themselves. I think it’s a pretty cute explanation, but this particular one that I’ve linked to does come as an editable PDF, so you can make changes if there are parts that you’d like to present in a different way.
OPTION 4: LET THEM IN ON THE SECRET
Good Things Guy came up with a cute narrative that keeps them feeling like the magic is still there, but clues them in to the idea that Santa is not a real, literal, person. It involves them getting into practicing acts of kindness, which is invariably a good thing.
OPTION 5: TELL THE TRUE STORY OF ST. NICK
The truth is that Santa was a real person in the form of St. Nicholas. He was a bishop in the 3rd century, and he’s thought to have secretly given gifts to the poor and needy, which is where we get our tradition of stockings and Santa Claus bringing gifts to put in them!
We chose to explain the historical St. Nicholas to our kids this way, and told them that some people like to play a game with their kids and pretend that he’s real. They’re welcome to play the game too, as long as they know the truth that it’s make-believe.
There are lots of children’s books on the subject, which you can find here on Amazon, or check out at your local library!
HOW TO EXPLAIN SANTA WITHOUT LYING
Explaining Santa to your kids without lying is definitely a tricky obstacle to overcome in parenting. Thankfully, though, there are lots of parents who have gone before us in dealing with this issue, and there’s lots of different healthy ways to handle it.
How did you decide to explain Santa to your kids (without lying, of course!)?
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Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.