How to Answer, “Is Santa Clause real?”
by Susie E. Caron 12/26/15. You can get more articles & updates: click the button above my photo.
You’ve suspected all year and dreaded the day when your little ones ask the question:
“Is Santa Clause really real?”
You don’t want them to ask and you don’t like the answer much better.
They might have asked you from time to time, before, but this time you know that they know. So what’s the problem? Why do you dread the question and also the answer?
Most parents dread this moment because it means the beginning of the end of the essence of childhood. Childhood is all about magical thinking. This is the kind of thinking, typical of children ages 0-9 or beyond, when they can believe anything’s possible. Reindeer fly, Tinkerbell can be saved if we only believe, the Tooth Fairy exchanges tiny teeth for coins or crisp dollar bills, the Easter Bunny delivers Easter Eggs and candy, Santa watches everyone to see if they are ‘bad or good’, and monsters live in the dark. Although this moment is expected, it is also loaded with mixed feelings and often uncertainty about how to handle children's reactions.
Parents feel conflicted.
As parents we treasure our little one’s childhood, magical thinking and all. However, when they begin to doubt the reality of fantasy, we know that childhood is rapidly passing by. The question: “Is Santa Clause real?” heralds the time just before puberty; their tweens, and later teenage years. Let’s face it, you're bound to feel conflicted. You want your kids to grow up, but then again, you don’t. That’s one reason you feel some sadness about the question “Is Santa Clause really real?”
Another reason you may feel conflicted and dread this moment, is because, well quite frankly, you lied. You may have just agreed with their fantasies by going along with magical thinking in all its forms. Or, you may have generously contributed to their fantasies. Whichever you did, rest assured, it’s what good parents do, but it is also basically lying. What makes the situation even more complex is that you did all this at the same time you were teaching your kids how important it is to tell the truth. Yes, this does pose a problem, but don't worry there is a way to manage this very important moment in your children's lives.
Children receive the news in different ways.
Most children take the news as though it was just like the silly elephant jokes they tell in third grade. Some children, especially those warned not to ‘spoil it’ for the younger children in the family, take it as a ‘right of passage,’ into the secret society of early adult hood. They are not offended and seem to enjoy being allowed 'in on the secret.' Then there are those, who will look at you through teary eyes and accuse you of the worst offense, next to homicide. In fact, that’s what it feels like to those kids: like you deliberately killed off their best fantasy friends and lied about their existence all along. All these reactions pose a problem and opportunity for you both.
This is your opportunity for some real parenting magic.
What can you do? No matter what childhood reaction you find yourself facing, to the news that Santa isn't actually a real person who delivers Christmas presents, you have only one choice: you must apologize. It doesn't matter if you had provided reasonable answers to the lie, such as he's a legend, or he used to be a Saint, or whatever you came up with. You still have to apologize. Don’t be offended, by their reaction. Instead just apologize with all the sincerity you can muster, because your future relationship depends upon what you say next.
I have coached parents through this, and experienced these reactions in my own children, so I know this is very important opportunity you'll want to grab. How you handle it can ensure more open communication and contribute to a healthy relationship between you and your growing child right into their teens.
Here 's how.
No matter the reaction, tell your child, you are very sorry about lying. You understand that this hurts, (or that you are glad they understand and 'got the joke' or 'understand how important it is to keep the secret from the younger kids,' etc.) However, say that you are sorry for ever lying to him/her and then make them a promise.
PLEASE NOTE: This is the only promise I recommend you ever give, and it is the ONE which you MUST KEEP.
“I promise that I will never, ever, lie to you again." Then add, "and lying hurts, so much that I expect you will never lie to me as well. That way we won’t hurt each other. We must never lie to each other. Let’s make that a promise.”
Then write it down, hug, or link pinkies or whatever you need to do to seal this promise.
Here's why you'll want to apologize.
Apologizing to your child in this situation may seem strange to you, and you may not have thought about it. However, because your relationship to your child is forever altered by the question: “Is Santa Clause real," make sure you do everything in your power to keep that relationship in good shape. The tween and teen years are approaching and you will need honest and open communication between you. It doesn't matter when they have asked it's not too late to hold a similar discussion with all your children. Just change the wording to fit their developmental stages. This conversation can help anytime, but especially in the transition between childhood and early tweens. This is a prime opportunity.
My wish for you.
My wish for you is that this question doesn’t come soon and that you get to enjoy many, many years of magical thinking with your children. Childhood is very short, and as the lyics in the song Toyland by Johnny Mathis reminds us "once you've [they've] passed its borders, you can never return again." ( You can find song lyrics HERE )
Enjoy your children everyday, in magical thinking and beyond.
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Twee’ Means You and Me
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!