Is Santa Real?
Practical tips on how to handle the inevitable Santa question.
Most parents struggle with how to approach the dreaded “Santa question.” So much so that some parents even decide not to tell their children about Santa at all. You might hear them say things like, “I don’t want to lie to my child.” Parents on the other end of the spectrum keep the reuse going way after their child has already figured it out and is playing along for their parents’ benefit.
So, what’s the right way to tell your child about that jolly ol’ gift giver?
Dr. Stefania Prendes-Alvarez and Dr. Nicole Mavrides, both child psychiatry specialists at the University of Miami Health System, say it really depends on the child.
“Every kid is an individual, so allow them to take the lead,” says Dr. Mavrides. “If they bring it up, then have the conversation with them; otherwise just let them believe.”
“Also, don’t worry if, for example, your son believes in Santa a lot longer than your daughter,” adds Dr. Prendes-Alvarez. “That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your son. Actually, we have seen that often girls catch on faster than boys; although that isn’t always the case.”
Oh no! I didn’t eat the cookies!
Perhaps you slipped up and your child woke up and saw you setting the gifts under the tree, or you forgot to take a bite out of the chocolate chip cookie you left out for Santa. What do you do then?
“If your child wants to keep believing, they will,” both doctors say. “It really doesn’t matter what they see; they will rationalize it so don’t worry.”
They explain that even when kids hear that Santa isn’t real from their friends and even say he isn’t real at school, they may still want to act like they believe at home.”
Many parents are still afraid that their children will feel betrayed when they find out, though. Kids normally don’t hold grudges, says Dr. Mavrides. Once you talk about it, they understand you did it for them.
When your child does come to you and asks if Santa is real, use the explanation you may have heard it from your parents.
The tried and true go-to for explaining Santa – “He is just a fun representation of what Christmas is – the season of giving.” Tell your kids that the true magic of Christmas is spreading joy and spending time with your loved ones.
“This is a great time to make new traditions,” says Dr. Prendes-Alvarez. “You could take the opportunity to bring your child into the spirit of giving by letting them pick out a toy to donate to a toy drive or have them help you keep the magic alive for a younger sibling.”
“Just because your child doesn’t believe in Santa anymore doesn’t mean the magic is gone,” adds Dr. Mavrides. “You can keep Christmas special by redefining the meaning together as a family.”
Natasha Bright is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News. Her writing has also been featured on the Huffington Post and Scary Mommy websites.