Here’s a question parents of young children inevitably have to wrestle with at one time or another: When -- and how -- should we break the news about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny to our kids? While it may be easy to keep up the illusion of Santa (and his cohorts of magical beings with a penchant for gift-giving) when a child is 4 years old, it becomes quite a different story when that child and his friends become older, savvier, and more worldly grade-schoolers.
So what can parents do when the time comes nigh for telling a child the truth about Santa and the other magical beings of childhood? How can you tell when a kid is ready to handle the truth? Keep these tips in mind when breaking the news to your child.
How to Tell Kids the Truth About Santa
The age can vary. When is the right age to tell your child about Santa? This really depends on the parents, and to a very large extent, the child. Some families may choose to delay revealing the truth about Santa until their child is approaching middle school while others may break the news when their child is in her early grade school years.
Even within one family, personality differences among children can dictate when a parent tells the truth about Santa. For instance, one child may be more invested in the story of Santa and carry on her belief even into age 10 or beyond while her sibling may become suspicious and attempt to sniff out the truth at a young age. Thus, when it comes to telling a child the truth about Santa, parents may want to take into account what will work best for each individual child.
It’s okay to want to make the magic last. There is nothing wrong with a parent wanting to sustain their child’s belief in these magical and generous beings -- and thereby extend those innocent days of childhood -- for as long as possible.
Really consider what your child wants when he asks for the truth. I learned this lesson the hard way when my son asked me to not lie to him and tell him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the Tooth Fairy when he was 7 years old. I gingerly informed him that I did, in fact, put the money under his pillow. He immediately fell apart and began to wail so hard that it broke my heart. I immediately backtracked and explained that the Tooth Fairy probably exists but that she is so super-busy going to so many homes that parents often have to help out. He felt better and I learned a very important parenting lesson: Give your child what he needs at the time, not what he says he wants.
Explain that Santa is a symbol of love and giving. Help your child understand that while there may not be a jolly plump man in a red suit at the North Pole, the spirit of Christmas is very much alive in people’s hearts. Tell your child that you believe in the magic of love and the spirit of giving, and that this is what Santa Claus symbolizes.
Empower him with the new knowledge. Encourage your child to help younger siblings, cousins, and other children keep believing in Santa. This can be an excellent way to build nurturing skills in your child, and help him feel more grown up. By having him join adults in teaching kids about the magic of Christmas, you can help your child make the transition into a world where magic can still exist but in a more realistic context.
Talk with other parents. If the parents of your child’s friends are outing Santa and your child still believes, you may want to ask them to tell their kids to keep the secret. How to handle the truth about Santa and the Tooth Fairy is up to each individual child’s family, and their approach should be respected as much as possible.