If you are a family with young children that celebrates Christmas, you are addressing Santa Claus. Period.
Maybe you’re a new parent contemplating whether you will play along with the song and dance of Santa. Maybe you’re a parenting vet mulling over the decision to break it to your older children that the fictitious gift-giver is actually you and your husband.
Even if the only way you acknowledge Santa Claus in your home is by not acknowledging him, it’s something you have to consciously choose.
Allow me to help you navigate.
Going Along with the Story
Even if you grew up with the idea of Santa Claus, you may be uncomfortable with telling your own children that he is real. Kids are so beautifully innocent and will believe whatever you tell them as parents.
But is it lying?
PBS.org addresses this topic in its article, “Is It Okay to Lie About Santa?” The article provides evidence that sharing the myth of Santa with your kids can be a healthy and fun experience for the entire family.
“Kids up to four, five, six, seven live in what we call fantasy life magic years,” says Dr. Benjamin Siegel, Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine. “They are influenced by what they see and hear around them. They get very excited about characters in their life that have special meaning for them.” Those characters include superheroes, monsters, animals and even Santa. — PBS.org
In this example, you can just file Santa in the imaginary friend category and not feel bad about it.
Choosing to Ignore the Story
There are a number of reasons you may choose to ignore the story of Santa Claus within your family. I have friends who don’t “do Santa” at their house because they grew up poor and want their kids to know how hard they worked to provide all the presents.
Other reasons to ignore Santa include religious reasons and feelings of dishonesty. Unfortunately, though, if your child attends school, it is likely he or she will hear about Santa.
Be prepared to talk to your kids about it and guide them in the way they talk to children who do believe.
Debunking the Myth
This may be the hear you let the cat out of the bag. You’re dreading it. What do you say?
First of all, if your child is around seven or eight, there is a high likelihood they already suspect something is up.
“Most kids do fine when they learn a myth is not real,” says Seigel. “Sometimes parents feel very badly because they want their kids to continue to believe in Santa Claus. Maybe parents like the myth because it makes them feel good, or because kids get disappointed in them when they find out the truth. Kids realize that parents aren’t so powerful, but that happens in adolescence anyway.”
If the idea of breaking the news to your child is just too depressing to bear, consider the approach taken by Martha Brockenbrough of the New York Times. She originally published a letter she wrote to her daughter several years ago.
Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents, and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.
“So, no, I am not Santa,” writes Brokenbrough. “Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.”
Brokenbrough’s approach treats Santa as a verb rather than a noun. It’s as though Santa is a secret society that provides holiday cheer. It’s an approach worth considering.
The great thing is that – regardless of the path you choose — you can enjoy a festive and fun Christmas with your family.