It’s going to happen to every parent who has ever introduced their children to the wonders of Santa Claus. When that dreaded day arrives and your child asks “Is Santa Claus Real?”, here are some ideas on what you can say and do.
Find out what has prompted their inquiry. Maybe they heard something at school or maybe some part of the story seems illogical to them. If the latter is the case, praise them for their critical thinking. This is actually a positive developmental step. In any case, knowing their reasons for asking the question will help you answer the question more skillfully.
Ask what the child believes. Just because the child is asking questions doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is emotionally ready to believe the truth. Asking, “Well, what do you think?” will give you an idea of where the child is both emotionally and cognitively. If the child still believes in Santa, despite any outside doubts, it’s not time yet.
Tell the truth. Your child is seeking for you to reassure him/her of Santa Claus’ existence. A child needs to believe in something magical and pure. Do not be fooled when a child says that they do not care if Santa is real, that all he/she want is the presents. This is a child’s way of deflecting their desire for believing in Santa in a way that will induce the parent to “disclose” the truth. Tell your child that Santa is real, and that if he/she does not believe in him, then perhaps no presents will come on Christmas. Remember: the belief in Santa Claus is the final frontier of innocence, and to deny them that is to rob them of a childhood. Also remember, that when you tell your child that there is no Santa, your child will very likely tell his classmates that there is no Santa, thus destroying their belief when their parents would not have it so. Expect many calls from angry parents demanding answers as to why your child told theirs that no Santa Claus existed.
Apologize, if your child feels betrayed by you. Most children will not be angry, but be prepared for this outcome. Explain that until he or she asked the question, you could not reveal the answer. Also explain that you did that because it’s a wonderful story that brought you and the child a lot of joy. Likewise, instruct your child to keep the secret of Santa and not ridicule anyone (friends, classmates, or younger siblings) who argue that Santa is real; the best reason to give is because his spirit is real and enduring.
Explain that Santa embodies the real spirit of Christmas. Something like this: “Santa Claus is a magical spirit that lives inside of everyone who believes in him. He is real only for as long as you believe he is real and not for one moment longer. When your friends tell you that Santa is not real, they are correct. He isn’t real for them any more. If you believe he is real, like I do, then he is. You can keep Santa alive in your heart for as long as you want to do so. Even when you’re as old as I am.” Or simply state: “We are all Santa,” and discuss the times you do nice things for people throughout the year, expecting nothing in return.
Recruit them to become one of Santa’s helpers. Children who ask the magic question, “Is Santa Claus real?”, may become Santa’s helper if they want to be. Santa’s helpers are people who help Santa fill the stockings and arranges the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve while everyone else is sleeping.
Remember. You can tell them about how you learned. Also, there’s no proof that he isn’t real!