This past December it finally happened.
All 3 kids asked the question every parent dreads during this time of year.
“Is Santa real?”
Over the years, they had occasionally asked this question. It had always been easy to pacify them with a question in return. I always asked them the infamous questions every parent uses:
“What do you think?”
Except it was no longer working.
It was late afternoon while I was getting dinner ready and all 3 kids came and sat at the kitchen island. Our 9-year-old led the conversation.
“Mommy, we have something important to ask you.”
Our 6-year-old followed her.
“Is Santa real?”
Before I could respond, our 8-year-old said, “We know you’re going to ask us what we think, but we want to know the truth. The real truth.”
The 6-year-old then started in with questions:
“How can one person get around the entire earth AND deliver presents in one night?”
“Reindeer are real but can they really fly?”
“If elves make toys, why do they look like the Lego company’s toys?”
“How can a fat man get down a skinny chimney?”
“Why would it be okay with you to have a stranger come in our house in the middle of the night?”
Are we here already? Weren’t they just babies and we decided what Christmas traditions we wanted to have as a family?
We never put a lot of focus on Santa around the holidays. We tried to focus more on Jesus since he was the reason we celebrate Christmas. Most of what they know was learned from friends at school, books, and Christmas movies.
I wasn’t prepared. I had no plan.
I thought I’d feel cornered when this moment came but honestly, I felt relief.
“No,” I said. “Santa, the person who wears a red suit and has a white beard isn’t real. At one time there was a man who delivered presents to children on Christmas but this was hundreds of years ago.”
I told the girls the story of St. Nick and how its earliest origins were of a man who brought presents to children on Christmas and how his story has evolved over the years.
I explained how we all have the spirit of Santa in us and told them it was our responsibility to continue giving presents and doing Random Acts of Kindness for others. As a family, we do Random Acts of Kindness once a month. It’s really taught them the importance of giving to others and being more selfless. Because of this, it was easier for them to see the correlation between giving gifts to celebrate Jesus and being a light in someone else’s day.
I asked the girls if they could think of some of our Christmas traditions that resemble the spirit of giving.
They needed some prompting but were able to list a few.
- We sponsor a family each year
- We give the kids Advent boxes at the beginning of the season
- We bake cookies and deliver them to other people’s mailboxes
- We pay for the car behind us when we go look at our local light show
- We donate toys
- We collect coats and hats and gloves to donate
I was worried our kids would be devastated with this news. I was especially worried they feel betrayed and lied to. They didn’t – thank goodness!
I’ll be totally honest, I always felt a little icky about not being truthful with our kids about Santa. We loved how much fun it was for them but it never sat well with me. I was more than happy to finally come clean with them and felt Christmas became, even more fun, for them this year. We did more special surprises and when they wrapped everyone’s gifts, they signed Santa’s name to them.
I think every parent gets to the point where they know they can’t continue to avoid answering questions.
Here are some tips for finally having the real Santa discussion:
- Don’t avoid the topic if they’re directly asking about it.
- Answer their questions honestly.
- Talk about the importance of gift giving: finding the perfect gift for someone, making people feel special and important, etc.
- Ask them if they have any questions.
- Be empathetic if they get upset with you.
- Try to find things you can do as a family to make others feel special and to embody the spirit of Santa.
- Ask them to not discuss this topic with their friends.
I asked our kids to not discuss this topic with friends at school. Our kids know children from different cultural and religious backgrounds so it was easy to explain to them. “Different families have different beliefs and it’s not our responsibility to talk about it with friends. They can discuss it with their own parents. If anyone asks you, tell them to talk to their own parents.”
Ending the belief in Santa almost feels like it will be the end of childhood.
I assure you, it isn’t.
Our kids still wake up and crawl into our bed in the middle of the night, still get scared by bad dreams, and still need us to help reach things in the kitchen cabinets. They still cry when they fall and still want us near by when they’re upset.
There’s plenty of childhood left in them.
Kristina Grum is a Certified Parent Educator who has over a decade of experience working with children, including being a classroom teacher. She took the (very) long route to loving motherhood. These days she strives for ways to connect with her kids, while using shortcuts to manage and organize her home. She is a postpartum mood disorder survivor who thrives on helping others find the joy in parenthood that is just lurking around the corner. She currently teaches positive discipline parenting classes in her local area and she believes that every parent can shift from barely surviving to thriving in Parenthood. Visit her on Thriving Parents today!