Santa is a tradition that is centuries old in many cultures. Many of us grew up believing in Santa Claus and have passed on the legend to our own children. It brings families together where magical moments are made and stay forever engraved in our hearts. Family dinners and traditions are shared.
At some stage in a child’s life however they will begin to realize that there has to be more to the story than they’ve been told. When children are young, it’s hard for them to differentiate between fact and fiction. However, as they grow developmentally they begin to separate the two and can then better understand. Most kids by the time they reach 4th or 5th grade will either hear the “truth” from an older sibling or someone at school. If not, they will eventually discover on their own.
1. Make It a Rite of Passage
As a child grows, he will come to the place where the big man in a red and white suit who rides a sleigh on Christmas Eve, going down chimneys and delivering presents to all boys and girls starts to seem a little fishy. This is a sign your child is growing up. Alert your child to this fact, and it may help them adjust to the realization of the truth about Santa in a positive way. Explain that Santa is a game that many children like to play and that as one grows older they begin to think about things differently. Why do all the Santas look so different? How can he fit down our chimney, or better yet, we don’t have a chimney, so do we leave the door open for him?
2. Explain the Whys
You can explain that the “game” was fun and brought much joy into their lives. Remind them about the many wonderful moments they spent making lists and waiting for Santa. Remind them of the magic that this belief brought to them for so long.
3. Encourage Them to Continue Believing
When your child is enlightened about Santa, reassure them that the fun doesn’t need to end. Encourage them to continue writing lists and enjoying the Christmas spirit. Some families even continue giving and receiving presents whose labels say “From Santa.” Christmas is for us older kids, too.
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4. Focus on Other Traditions
Santa is not the only Christmas tradition that a family can share together. There are so many things that become part of the tapestry of this beautiful holiday season. It is fun to find other things to do as a family. Spend even more time together doing the things you love, such as baking, Christmas shopping, and playing board games. The magic of Christmas needn’t be ruined simply by Santa’s place in it changing.
5. Encourage Sensitivity to Those Who Still Believe
Once your child learns the truth about Santa, they may feel obligated to broadcast it to the world. Remind your child gently that there are many other children who still believe and encourage them not to break the joy of the Santa tradition for those others. Talk with your child about things they can say if the subject comes up among other children, so that they are never left in an awkward position.
Santa is a wonderful symbol of giving and kindness. People young and old love to play along with it and take joy in seeing the smiles that Santa brings to the faces of so many little ones. When the time is right for your child to move on, be prepared so that you can help them preserve the memories as a wonderful experience in their heart forever.