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Telling Your Kids the Truth

In what will likely be a lifetime of awkwardly tricky conversations with your kids, the “there is no Santa” talk is often the first for many parents. Here are some tips on how to better get through it for the both of you.

Figure out who really needs to hold on to Santa. “Sometimes, it’s less about when your child is ready and more about when you are ready,” says MegAnne Ford, a parenting coach and owner/CEO of Be Kind Coaching. “We as adults started the story, and it’s our job as adults to finish the story. However, I think as soon as your child starts questioning, it’s time to start the planning process. Think of this as an invitation to decide how your family will view the story of Santa, in your unique way.”

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Sometimes, the signal that they’re ready comes from a subtle shift in a way they ask the Santa question. “When a child starts asking if Santa Claus is real, most parents I know — myself included — either say ‘of course,’ or redirect the question to not quite answer it,” says Emily Edlynn, Ph.D., who runs The Art and Science of Mom.

“When a child is satisfied with this, even if they start to have doubts, they may not be ready to stop believing. When a child says something along the lines of, ‘Santa isn’t real, is he?’ it can be useful to reflect the question back to them to figure out why they think so. When they’re older and can think more critically, they’ll tell you Santa isn’t real, and especially when their peers are talking about Santa not being real. These are good indicators they’re really to hear the truth.”

On the other hand, psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Justin Coulson thinks that too many parents simply overcomplicate the whole thing, and he says, “Tell your kid the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

According to Coulson, being “brutally honest” with your kids about Santa is the best approach. He says, “Christmas is going to be exciting and fun and enjoyable whether kids know the truth about Santa or not. In the same way that I can watch a movie that I know is complete fiction and still find the movie tremendously enthralling, our children can know the truth about Santa and still find Christmas every bit as exciting.”

When and how you choose to break the news, all of the experts would agree, that the key is how to convert the belief in Santa into other expressions of the holiday spirit.

One mom suggests to tell your kids, that the day they no longer believe in Santa, is because God has shown them in their hearts that they are now old and mature enough to “be a Santa,” and by “being a Santa” it is now their responsibility to give to others without expecting anything in return, and spread joy and happiness in the world, just like the “real” Santa.

When and how did you tell your kids about Santa Claus? Please share your stories using the comments below.

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