It's the question every parent dreads: Is Santa Claus real? The bombshell can drop at age 6, or 7, or 8, even older, but no matter what the child's age, it can "mark the end of a certain kind of innocence for the child," says Marie Hartwell-Walker in Psych Central, "and an end of a fun chapter of parenting for the adults." How parents respond can determine whether the moment results in tears, anger, or a "sweet transition" to "a new kind of magic." When the question comes, what's the best way to answer it?
Lie through your teeth: If your kids are still young enough to buy it, tell them Santa is real, says Margot Magowan in the San Francisco Chronicle. "I tell them how Santa can fold his body up, like a magical yogi, to wiggle down our chimney." The little ones "look adorable sucking it all up, mouths open, eyes wide." When "these childhood myths" fade away, it will be "a gentle way for kids to learn [that] well-intended parents are not always reliable sources of truth."
"Santa, unicorns, and heaven"
Fess up. Teach them about the real Christmas: We tell our kids the truth, says Pastor Marc Driscoll in The Washington Post. That means teaching them about the real Saint Nick — "a wonderful man who loved and served Jesus faithfully" — and about the myth of Santa Claus. We don't "demonize" Santa, but we don't lie to convince our children he's real. "Our kids thank us for being both honest and fun, which we think is what Jesus wants."
"What we tell our kids about Santa"
Tell the truth when they're ready to hear it: I'm no "Santa fan," says Lissa Rankin in Care2, but I'm not about to tell my daughter "Santa is a figment of Hallmark's imagination." She'll figure it out, and if she gets wise before her peers, I'll tell her it's OK to keep the "secret" to avoid spoiling their fun. Santa Claus brings children joy, so I won't be teaching her to lie. I'll be teaching her about "compassion."
"Is Santa real? What to tell the kids"
Follow the child's lead: Doubt creeps in naturally as your child gets older, says Doreen Nagle in the Chicago Sun-Times. By age 9 or sooner, "the logical brain kicks in," and all bets are off. At any age, it's best to kick back the question, and ask, "what do you think?" You'll know by the response whether your little one is ready to let go of Santa. But "don’t push. You can do an emotional disservice if you push a child into cold hard realities before he or she is ready."
"When kids ask if Santa is 'real'"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Israel has only two choices: Eliminate the Palestinians or make peace
- 9 things you probably didn't know about the moon
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- Why I choose not to be rich
- 29 adorable slang terms for sex (from the last 600 years)
- What if The Purge was real?
- Here's the last time Russia shot down a passenger plane
Subscribe to the Week