There comes a dreaded time in every parent’s life when they have to have “that” conversation with their kids. Nope, not the puberty, period, or sex talk, but the Santa talk. For years, parents have been secretly buying and hiding tons of gifts, then getting up in the middle of the night to wrap and/or place them inside stockings (with care) under the guise that they are from Jolly St. Nick. Kids believe that he magically enters the house in the middle of the might. Parents tell stories about Santa to their kids and warn them that he’s watching to see if they're being good or bad. They take photos at the mall and mail carefully crafted letters. It’s all part of Christmas tradition with kids.
But at some point, as kids get older, they start to question things. How does Santa get inside when we don’t have a chimney? Is it really possible for Santa to visit every kid in the entire world in one night? Why does Santa look different this year versus last? And why does daddy have cookie crumbs on his pajamas? When you know it’s time to have “the talk” and tell them the truth, here are some ways you can do it.
10 Tell Them About Everyone at Once
Just rip the Band-aid off and tell them about all of the magical creatures that don’t really exist. Chances are, once you reveal the truth about Santa, they’re going to start questioning everything they know about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and others.
Prepare yourself for those questions and explain that, in every case, it was all about magic and believing in something. And whether Santa is real or not, they should still behave well all year and appreciate all of the gifts they receive, whether it’s toys from Santa, chocolates from the Bunny, or $5 bills from the Tooth Fairy.
9 Explain the Magic of Christmas
The point of introducing Santa to kids is to make them believe in the magic of Christmas. Our immense commercialization of the holiday has changed that. Explain to them that even though they now know that Santa isn’t real, the idea of him is one worth carrying on in order to help them enjoy the true magic of Christmas.
So even if they don’t believe anymore, they can think of Santa as someone who helps them do their best all year long and bring joy to everyone they meet. Ask them how they want to show they believe: maybe it’s putting together a gift basket for a child in need, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, for example.
8 Offer To Still Label Gifts From Santa
They might be upset about knowing the truth not only because that aspect of Christmas is ruined, but also because, let’s face it, they think it means they’ll no longer receive those gifts. Soften the blow by offering to continue to buy an extra gift or two, or small stocking stuffers, and fill their stockings so they can still wake up and have something special to open, even if they know it’s all from you.
It’s all about the element of joy and surprise, and if they know they can still get that, it might hurt a bit less. Plus, they’ll know who to thank once they’re done opening everything!
7 Tell Them the Story of When You Found Out
Start off with the story of how you found out the truth. Whether you were younger than they are at the time, older, or maybe around the same age. Regardless of the commonality in age, find a way to make your experience relatable to theirs (or maybe yours was traumatizing or hilarious, which will make them feel better).
If you explain that their grandma and grandpa had you believing the same thing when you were a child, as did so many other kids’ parents, they might not feel resentful. And they’ll appreciate that you were only trying to make Christmas really special for them, just as your parents did for you.
6 Have Older Kids in the Family Talk With Them After
If your child has an older sibling, cousins, or other family members who are kids as well and already know the truth, have them sit down and talk with your child to let them know it’s okay and that they were all in the same position before.
The kids can help uplift your child and make them realize that there were good intentions, and that Santa can still be alive in their heart even if he isn’t actually a jolly overweight man with a white beard and a red suit.
5 Find a Book or Movie First
Find a book about the magic of Christmas, or watch a Christmas movie that will put your child in a calm and relaxed mood, and feeling good about Christmas. Perhaps a movie that touches on the topic of believing and not believing and discusses what the magic of Christmas is really about.
This might help your child see that Santa isn’t real in the physical sense, but the magic and joy around him and what he stands for it.
4 Write Down a List of Reasons Why Kids Believe in Santa
Give your child a list of why it’s still important to believe in what Santa stands for, even if they now know that a strange and jolly man doesn’t enter their home in the wee hours of the morning with a fleet of reindeer and a sleigh parked on your roof.
Show them that they can still believe in all of those reasons, like that someone is watching over them to make sure they make the nice list this year and not the naughty, and that their wishes can come true. Seeing it all on paper might make them OK with the truth.
3 Make Sure They Don’t Tell Younger Siblings
If you have multiple children, the subject of Santa can get touchy, especially with their youngest ones. As older children begin to question things, and friends in school reveal presumed facts that their older siblings tell them, kids will get wise to the fact that Santa isn’t real.
If you still want to keep the magic alive for the youngest kids, do your part at home by asking your older kids not to spill the beans to the little ones... at least not yet. They will feel special because they know something their younger siblings don’t, and you can promise to have them help with the process once you’re ready to tell the other kids, and even have them help with the shopping, wrapping, and stocking stuffing until then.
2 Wait Until They Come To You
Sometimes it’s best not to say anything and let kids run through the questions and suspicions they have in their minds for a while. Eventually, they’ll come to you and flat out ask. At that point, you can make the decision to deny, deny, deny, or tell them the truth.
They might appreciate your honestly, and actually feel validated that they figured it out on their own more so than hurt and upset. So waiting it out could actually work in your favor.
1 Take Them Somewhere to Celebrate the Milestone
After you’ve broken the news, soften the blow by planning a day or night out to get your child’s spirits up, maybe to a Christmas-themed party or amusement park, a skating rink, ice cream parlor, or dinner date to get their mind off things. You could even just drive through the neighborhood at night to look at all of the lovely lighted houses.
Let them see all of the joy Christmas brings, including to the faces of younger kids who absolutely love the idea of Santa and believing in him. Just seeing the smiles on kids’ faces as they wait in line for a photo with “Santa” might be enough to have your newly-informed child admit “I get it.”