Joanne

expert

What to say about Santa?

Note the use of a very careful headline...What are you saying about the S word this Christmas?

What to say about Santa?

Editor's note: Christmas is just about upon us and this proved a popular post last year so we thought we'd give it an update and share it again – after all, some traditions don't really change!

While we teach our kids the importance of honest and try to demonstrate that value through our own actions (ok, most of the time: sometimes mummy's breath smelling like chocolate when she comes in for yet another kiss good-night is just one of those funny things, no chocolate here...), most of us tell a few fibs from time to time. And around now, your child under ten may well be questioning one of the biggest of all tall tales that parents have come up with. So does your child still believe in Santa? And how do you respond to their questions?

Some parents believe that the legend of Father Christmas is not compatible with honest parenting, so they don't follow this tradition at all. However, one psychiatrist thinks that a belief in Santa encourages children's moral development by teaching them to be good. Another study of children aged 9 and over who no longer believed found that they were glad that they had believed in Santa, and proud of having worked out the truth because it made them feel grown up.  So it looks like it does no harm to focus on whether you've been naughty or nice.

If your children are questioning the existence of the man in red, there are a number of responses you can give:

  • Deny everything
    Make like a politician and insist that the situation is nothing to do with you. Stick to your story and accept no deviation. Be aware that this means that you will still be making up stockings when your children are 25.
  • Tell them the truth
    Some parents take the first opportunity to admit that it was them all along. If this is your approach, it can be a good chance for your child to feel more grown up, but remind them to keep the story special for younger children.
  • Be non-committal and don't answer directly
    I tend to flip the question back and say "What do you think?" or "Why do you ask?", then say "Mmm" a lot whilst scratching my chin and looking thoughtful. Well, it's one way to keep the magic going.

My ten year old claims to still believe, even though last year she uncovered most of her stocking gifts in my bedroom cupboard. My seven year old has said he's keeping his Christmas list a secret because he wants to find out if Santa is real or not. Normally we put Christmas lists on the mantelpiece from around mid-December so the elves can come and have a look. I pointed out that if he keeps his list to himself, then the elves won't get a chance to see it. So now he says he'll share his list as usual, reasoning that when he's grown up he'll find out the truth anyway.

Given that my children are not daft (not as daft as me anyway), I think that in their heads they know the score, but in their hearts there's still plenty of Christmas magic. And that seems to me as good a compromise as any.

What's the Santa situation in your house? What do you tell your kids? Do they still believe?

More to read on this:

14 Comments

  • Linda

    editor

    Linda Jones, Editor

    03 December, 2010

    Hi Joanne, I always used to say that the real Father Christmas lived far away but he had an army of helpers who popped up in shops across the land! One year they clocked a receipt at the bottom of the stairs that had fallen out of a bag and something else Santa must have dropped in the utility room. They still chose to sort of believe, I'd already explained that Santa has a magic key when there is no chimney. They loved the Santa Claus films but found them confusing as they didn't think this was the real Santa.

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    apieceoflisa

    03 December, 2010

    Lat year my two children found all their presents hidden in my bedroom. I thought they had reached the age when I could come clean about the myth of Father Christmas without too much upset. How wrong I was! So we all decided to forget what had happened and carry on believing in the guy in the red suit. I think deep down will all wish it was true no matter how old we are!

  • English mum

    mum

    English Mum

    03 December, 2010

    In our house, the mantra is the same as it was when I was young: 'if you don't believe, you don't receive!'. Obviously this only comes into play with slightly older children, but I found it very useful for when older siblings start to become more 'aware'!

  • Maggie

    mum

    Maggie Christie

    03 December, 2010

    When my eldest asked last year (aged seven) I gave her The Polar Express to watch. I think she knows who Santa is but is worried that I don't. She may have to gently tell me at some point in the future. At the moment I think we're all at the 'keeping quiet so the presents don't stop' stage.

  • Linda

    editor

    Linda Jones, Editor

    03 December, 2010

    Well said Lisa!

  • Small_blank

    admin

    Ready for Ten admin

    03 December, 2010

    I think it's lovely that children have a fairy tale to focus on once a year. There is so much pressure from school, parents, expectations etc in their little lives even from a young age, I think it's wonderful they can partake in something quite magical.

    Mine are young but totally believe in Santa, and this year have been asking many questions about him... when he comes, how he comes, what their part in the whole thing is. I love it, so it's probably just as much for my pleasure as for theirs. Last year my middle son was two and a half, and probably a little too young to understand it all, but we sat and watched Santa on the Norad tracking site http://www.noradsanta.org/en/index.html together to see how he was progressing with his present deliveries, and this year I know it will be a huge hit in our house.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Leigh
    Ready for Ten Team

  • Ellen

    mum

    Ellen Arnison

    03 December, 2010

    My kids now seven and 111 seem to have spent the last three years deciding whether to believe or not. Now they keep up the pantomime for their baby brother.

  • Small_blank
    michelletwinmum

    04 December, 2010

    I am wrestling with what to do at the moment from the point of view of Christianity. I know many friends tell their kids there is no Santa as they feel Father Christmas distracts from the real essense of Christmas - ie that it was Jesus birth day. This seems to a bit drastic to me.

    Here, we tend to do a combined approach. St Nicholas is where Santa originated from and of course he was a Christian saint, so we tend to tell our kids that Santa has lots of helpers in the form of Christians everywhere in the same way as Jesus does and that works. I think the idea of Santa is beautiful and something lovely for a young family to share once a year.

    It got to a point that my 7 yr old JJ would say he wanted something for Xmas and when I mentioned how expensive it was, he would say it was OK as he would ask Santa. So I felt I needed to explain it was our purses that would be tapped as we were Santas helpers.

    I also have an issue that I worried about the injustice of Santa. That my kids would get so much when they know that many children live with nothing and that we sponsor children abroad and make shoe boxes to send to some.

    So for the moment, this is the approach we go with. I am santa's little helper!

    Mich x

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    Kim N

    04 December, 2010

    My partner tells his daughter that that because Santa is really busy, sometimes parents have to buy presents and send them away to Santa because he needs a little bit of help. She seemed to buy this over the last couple of years but not sure for how much longer. She has a 3 year old brother as well, so we are still talking about Santa all the time, so it's keeping the magic going a little bit longer for all of us - anyway - what does everybody mean saying that Santa isn't real?

  • Rftjo
    Jo Beaufoix

    04 December, 2010

    Miss M (5) totally believes. Miss E now 10 is a little like the boy in Polar Express. She wants him to be real but she doesn't want to feel silly.

    I've gone for the indirect approach and E has been easily fobbed off which makes me think either she still really wants to believe, or she's humouring me. She still seems so young to have to lose the magic though. Next year when she goes to Secondary school I do think I'll have to tell her to stop her from being teased, but for now Santa is staying.

  • Ian

    dad

    Ian Newbold

    06 December, 2010

    I like the principle of Santa existing. I can remember as a child working it our, but not saying anything, as I think, I grasped the ethic and wonder of a magical delivery man. Anyway, my son, at nearly six, has informed me this week that Santa does not exist, and in fact is just a cover story for Jesus Christ, who is the one actually delivering the presents.

  • Alice castle

    mum

    Alice Castle

    06 December, 2010

    I found this a really difficult one as I didn't want to lie to my children or freak them out ('late at night a strange man will come into your bedroom ....') but in the end I went with the whole magical Christmas thing and we have all really enjoyed it. My eldest believed for ages but finally rumbled it when she realised that Father Christmas always had the same wrapping paper as us .... now the children are teenagers they talk about 'Father Christmas' in a very ironic way but they still love their stockings on Christmas morning.

  • Carolgarrington
    Carol Garrington

    09 December, 2010

    My boys are 10 and 12 now and I have always tried to keep their belief in Santa going, although it has led to a few fibs along the way, I don't feel bad about that. I'm sure we are fast approaching the point now where they will both decide that Santa isn't real. I remember being the same at their age and Christmas is never the same after that realisation. The magic seems to go somehow. Which is why I've tried to keep it going as long as I can.

    When the discussion arises in our house now, my eldest son says he believes in St Nicholas because he was real. My younger son is still trying to cling on to the fact that Santa is real and last night he sent him an email from a website we found on Google. He was delighted to get a response from Santa within minutes. He also tracks him on Google Earth on Christmas Eve.

    I'm sure there are people who will think it ridiculous that a 10 year old still believes in Santa. I say whatever feels right in your family.

  • Small_blank

    admin

    Ready for Ten admin

    22 November, 2011

    I like the non-committal approach too Joanne!

    Mine are still young - the eldest, B, is nearly 3 and this is his first year of being properly excited about Christmas! I'm only just remembering what Father Christmas is supposed to do, where he is supposed to live, what he is supposed to eat etc.. but I need to get it all in my head now to keep my story consistent over the coming years!

    B has just discovered the Polar Express and his jaw drops every time sees it. He says 'Wow, Farv Bissmass!' .. ha ha .. His nonna (grandmother) is on the look out for an adult Father Christmas suit for this year - she says she's going to stuff a pillow down the top and come visit them!

    I must say, I'm one for keeping the magic of Christmas alive too .. maybe I should get an elf suit ;) !!

    Thanks Joanne, great post and great responses from last year too!

    Sue
    Ready For Ten team

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