How to deal with the Santa question

It’s the moment that many parents dread – when your child shows all the signs that she doesn’t believe in Santa anymore. First come the questions, then comes the reasoning and finally, the realisation. Some kids carry on with the pretence in case the presents dry up (!) or for the sake of a younger sibling. But for some, well, it can be like the end of a more innocent era.

Firstly, don’t panic. Think back to when you were young. Did knowing that Santa wasn’t really a man in a red coat coming down your chimney (a terrifying prospect if you really think about it) ruin all the joy of Christmas? Or did you still see it as a magical time of time with your family and friends, with a few treats thrown in to boot? Exactly. All of that said, here are some of our top tips on weathering the storm that the end of Santa brings.

Think about what your child means when they ask the question

It’s pretty common for a child to ask if Santa is real sometime around the age of seven or eight. This can be a hugely loaded question – your child might be looking for reassurance that Santa is real, or she might be looking a truthful answer. The way to find out is to respond “what do you think?” and that should give you an indication.

Think about your child’s age and stage

A Junior Infant who heard the rumours in the schoolyard from the older kids but is still deep in the magic and imagination stage – and her friends are too – may not be ready for the truth, but an 11 year old might be the focus of ridicule if you don’t tell the truth when asked. Unfortunately bringing reality to the world of imagination is part of growing up, but you’ll know yourself when your child is ready to hear the truth.

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Skirt the issue

If your child is a bit on the fence about whether Santa is real or not, try diffusing the situation by suggesting you write to Santa just in case. Then as time goes on, your child generally will come around to the truth herself.

Expect a reaction

Depending on what stage your child is at, finding out that Santa isn’t real can cause a variety of emotions. If your child is shocked or angry, talk about the history of Santa and how the story came about., Or maybe talk about the different Santa traditions in other countries. Understanding where the story of Santa comes from, that it’s not a lie your parents chose to tell you, can help any negative reactions.

Let your child naturally come around to the truth

Some parents like to start slowly with the truth, eg begin by telling their children that mum and dad help Santa by sending him money for the presents, or perhaps buy some of the presents for him. Another option is to write your child a letter from “Santa” explaining the truth – see this letter as a basis.

Don’t worry if someone tells them the truth

It really isn’t the end of the world if your child hears that Santa isn’t real. See it as an opportunity to talk about what Christmas means to you and how Santa is about the magic of Christmas and your family traditions. If your child is the eldest, maybe give her the opportunity to “play” Santa for the younger siblings – just as you had the opportunity to continue on the tradition for your own children. Remember that Santa is a positive thing, and just because you don’t believe that a man is coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve, it doesn’t say that Christmas isn’t happening.

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