Is There Really a Santa? Tips for Answering the Santa Question
You might get the question when your child is four years old or when he is five. She might wait to ask it until she is seven. Regardless of when it comes, will you be ready for “Mommy (or Daddy), is there really a Santa?”
What are you going to say when you hear the Santa question? Will you stumble over your words? Will you tell a half-truth or perhaps lie? Will you be tempted to avoid answering the question to preserve the mystery and your personal enjoyment for one more year?
Whether you’re ready or not, the question is coming. How you respond can help your child make a smooth transition into accepting the information you give them. Use the suggestions below to guide you in your preparation.
1. Before answering your child’s Santa question directly, ask clarifying questions. Determine his present frame of reference and how much his peers or siblings have already told him. The fact that he has asked this question indicates that he has been thinking about it and needs further clarification. Ask him what he has been thinking, who has given him information, and what he feels about what he already knows. From his answers you will glean what information needs to be clarified and where you need to begin.
2. Once you have information on what your child already knows, ask, “Do you really want to know?” Some children don’t want the answer. It’s enough for them simply to talk about what they know now. Their goal is to verify what they already know. They may return later to learn more. Some children take away what they now know and do not return for further information. They hold onto the mystery of Santa in their own way and preserve it into adulthood.
Most children, however, want to know. If they want verification and explanation, their answer to “Do you really want to know?” will be “Yes.” Their “yes” is often accompanied by a sad look.
3. When children want to know about Santa, tell them the truth. If they say they want to know, don’t attempt to preserve the mystery. Be open, honest, and gentle with your words. Remember, you are revealing a lie that the entire family (not to mention a large percentage of the population) helped you keep.
4. As you begin your explanation of why the Santa story was created, focus on the importance of giving. Move the attention from Santa and concentrate your discussion on the attitude of giving from the heart. Here is where you can talk about your family’s religious views. Explain the “reason for the season” from your family’s moral, ethical, and religious point of view.
5. Acknowledge your child’s emotional reaction. She may be angry, hurt, or sad that her parents have been lying to her for years. She may be disappointed that there is no Santa. Don’t make her wrong for having these feelings. Console and comfort her. Communicate empathy by saying, “I can see you feel sad about this,” or “This is really a big disappointment for you, isn’t it?” Allow her to grieve the loss of a fantasy and of a part of her childhood. Inviting her to write in a journal or draw a picture to communicate her thoughts and feelings is useful at this time.
6. Treat this moment as a benchmark, a milestone, a developmental transition in your child’s life. Help him recognize it as an indication that he is growing up. Help him make the transition from sadness about the loss of childhood into the next stage of his development, that of being someone “in the know” about Santa.
7. As a final suggestion, we encourage you to find a way for each child in your family to contribute to the spirit of giving so the focus stays on giving rather than on receiving. Ask them to respect other children and allow them the opportunity to discover the answer to the Santa question themselves. Refrain from asking them to join you in preserving the lie. Instead, ask them to join with what your family has established as the “reason for the season.”
If you take these suggestions to heart, it won’t matter when the Santa question comes. Whether it comes after your trip to the mall to visit Santa, the night before Christmas, or in the middle of July, you will be ready. Regardless of your child’s reaction, your preparedness will carry you through.