All children will eventually ask, “Is Santa Claus real?” Many parents dread having this discussion since no one wants to be the person who spoils the fun. But if you face the challenge head-on, it can be a unique opportunity to bond with your kids. There’s a sweet spot between a harsh, heartbreaking “no, of course not!” and an overly hopeful “yes, he’s very real!”
You can answer truthfully and engage them in a deeper conversation about the true meaning of Christmas. Kids are wiser, tougher, and more intuitive than most people think – you just need to help clear things up for them. Here are a few tips for handling the Santa Claus question.
How to Respond When Kids Ask, “Is Santa Claus Real?”
It helps to prepare for any big, complicated questions your kids might ask. You wouldn’t want to be caught off guard and say something unnecessary. These tips are specific to answering if Santa is real, but you can use them as a blueprint for other tough queries.
1. Understand why your kids are asking.
Find out why they're curious before anything else. If you have a school-aged child, their classmates may have talked about Santa around them. Maybe they saw something in a movie or TV show requiring an explanation. Or, they overheard you and your partner discussing Christmas plans. Whatever the case is, find out what they know. You can use that information to craft a suitable response.
It would also help to understand how they currently feel about Santa. Parenting specialist Jennifer O’Donnell explains that kids between the ages of six and nine are more likely to start asking these questions. In an article for Very Well Family, she advises: “Before you immediately reinforce the concept of Santa, try to determine if your child is ready to let go of the idea of Santa or is just having some doubts.” If your kiddo is not ready to hear the whole truth yet, you might want to keep your answers vague for now.
2. Turn the question back to them.
Once you know why your child is suddenly curious, match their enthusiasm and wonder. Make them feel like you’re figuring things out together. Ask them what they think about Santa and what their beliefs are. Figure out what he means to them and why it matters if he’s real. Is he just a fantastic character to them, like Superman or Mickey Mouse? Or do they believe that Santa is a person like you who visits them every Christmas?
Different kids will have an interpretation of who and what Santa Claus is. Make sure not to invalidate their thoughts and remind them that it’s good to ask questions. Sometimes, letting your little one talk it through is enough. They may just want you to hear them out and offer affirmation. Other times, they might be coming to you looking for sincere answers. In any case, approach them with kindness and encouragement.
3. Be as truthful as you can be.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how much of the truth to share with your child. You know them best! Be straightforward but gentle while laying it out for them. You could say, “Do you want to know who the real Santa Claus is? His name was Saint Nicholas, a patron saint of children who loved giving gifts a long time ago.” Let them know the real history behind Santa to avoid ruining the magic altogether. After all, Saint Nick still inspires Christmas cheer around the world – even if the sleigh-riding, chimney-climbing Santa Claus is more of a fantasy.
After the big reveal, congratulate your kid for figuring out who Santa is. It changes their perspective from being deceived to successfully solving a mystery. You can then take this as an opportunity to explain other holiday traditions while they’re eager to learn.
4. Revisit the Santa Claus story.
Let them walk you through the story as they know it. Maybe they’re also wondering about flying reindeer, magical elves, and the North Pole. Kids can ask a million questions a minute, so this is a chance to help them learn new things. You can teach them about reindeer and other fascinating animals in the real world. Get a map and point out where Santa’s workshop would be.
You can also reframe the story so they can still appreciate him even as their perception changes. For example, you can tell them that Santa is just one expression of the Christmas spirit. You could say, “Santa Claus doesn't have to be one person. He can be anyone who brings joy to others, especially during the holidays. Isn’t that more fun?” It could inspire them to be more like him by putting effort into making their loved ones happy.
5. Introduce new traditions.
Once your child has gotten used to the idea, you can ask them what they love most about Santa Claus. As a parent, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what they value about the experience. Are they most excited to receive gifts in exchange for good deeds? Do they enjoy making special treats for visitors? Do they get a kick out of hearing his magical story?
Use Santa as a springboard for new and equally exciting traditions. Have them participate in Secret Santa this year so they can play gift-giver for a change. Start a rewards chart as your household’s very own “nice list.” Distribute homemade sandwiches made with Lady’s Choice Real Mayonnaise and sweet Christmas ham around the neigborhood. You can say, “Santa loves his snacks, but he loves sharing them even more.”
No easy, one-size-fits-all answer addresses the question, “Is Santa Claus real?” Thankfully, you can navigate the topic with your kids while keeping their spirits up. Bottomline: be gentle and guide them as best as you can. Children might outgrow Santa, but you can always keep the magic alive at home.
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