Santa Claus reading a letter near a fireplace

It’s that time of year again. The holiday season is approaching and the excitement is slowly building up. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and soon enough Santa Claus will bring Christmas spirit and gifts. Some of us think that it is the most wonderful part of the year, while others resent it for becoming utterly commercialized and turned into a shopping frenzy.

But, what about our kids? During the holidays we most certainly get to spend more time with them. Do your kids know that Santa isn’t real? Breaking the news can be a heart-breaking and unpleasant experience for kids. So, what do the experts say and is there the best approach to deal with this?

The Problem

We know that Santa isn’t real. Lying to your child is not recommended by psychologists and parenting experts. Our children trust us fully and we should be telling them the truth in order to build a trusting relationship. So, you should tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, right? Well, not so fast.

Christmas is a magical event for (not only) kids, and telling them that Santa story is a lie can be disappointing and you don’t want to be Grinch! If you tell them the truth at an early age you may ruin their Christmas and make them question things that they are not ready for. And the truth is that magical stories are good for small kids. They help them improve focusing skills and stimulate the imagination.

So, it seems we are stuck. But, don’t worry. Many experts addressed this topic and there are ways to deal with this question in a nice way. I have read dozens of papers and articles and this is what I found out.

surprised Santa learning the truth

Correct Approach

With children, it is always more about “how” and not about “what”. It means that there is no universal approach to the Santa story. It’s not harmful in any way to allow your kids to believe in Santa. It is also perfectly okay to tell them the truth about Santa from the beginning. This part is up to you. But, what matters is how you deal with it. 

Historically, the story about Santa is a story about unconditional and selfless love. This is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Today, we often condition and manipulate our kids using Santa. “You’ll get your gifts only if you behave!” “Santa can see you all the time!” This is the wrong approach in many ways. Teach your children that Christmas and Santa are all about unconditional love and gift-giving.

When Is the Right Time

There are two ways to deal with the Santa myth. First, you can let your kids believe in Santa, and reveal the truth when the time is right. The other way is to tell them the truth from the very beginning. Most experts prefer one method over another, but they agree that both approaches are okay as long as you play it by the book. This is how you should do it.

Santa Is Real

If you decide to go along with the story, you will allow them to grow through fantasy and imagination. But don’t make Santa something that he’s not. And he is not a motivational tool. He is not an almighty judge to help you discipline your children. As your kids grow, they will start asking questions. Try not to lie to them, but encourage them to think and search for answers. Your task is to show sympathy and understanding. The idea is to follow their lead and you will know when the door opens for the truth. For example, if your child can figure out that there are three different Santas in three different malls, then she or he is ready.

If your kids ask you why did you lie to them, tell them it was a great story for little ones, like other fairy tales. But now, they are big enough to understand the truth. Tell them that Santa story is a way of teaching us about kindness and virtue.

Tell the Truth from the Beginning

Some parents like to prioritize the truth from the very beginning. And that is okay. It is a basis for a trustful and confident relationship. This won’t ruin your child’s Christmas. Children love to play make-believe and whether they know Santa is real or not, they will enjoy it. Just make sure you don’t push it.

You don’t have to tell your kids all truths about this world before they are ready to hear it. It’s the same with Santa story. Don’t tell them the truth before they ask. And always try to explain things in a way that is appropriate to their age and level of reasoning.

Final Thoughts

Your job as a parent is first and foremost to create a safe and loving environment. When it comes to telling the truth about Santa, it’s not really a big deal. As long as you don’t use Santa for the wrong reasons, things will come naturally.

So, the most important thing here is how you deal with Christmas and Santa story. If you’re doing it right, breaking the news won’t be a problem.