What to say about Santa?
Note the use of a very careful headline...What are you saying about the S word this Christmas?
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:
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:
- What happened when a teacher told their class that Santa doesn't exist
- Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkein - if your children are asking questions, this book has the answers, as FC writes about his life
- Discussion on whether it's wrong to tell your child that Santa Claus is real
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