As an adult it can be completely nerve-wracking to know what to say when a child asks if Santa is real.
Do we say Santa is real and risk the white lie? What happens when their child-like faith collides with reality?
Or should we be honest and factual, leaving out the magic and whimsy? Not to mention the fact that it’s even more confusing when some people are excitedly talking of Santa while others don’t say anything at all.
Children have come to me asking questions about Santa for years while I was a preschool teacher. The question I always dreaded was “Is Santa real?” Whenever that question came out (pretty rarely), I froze up. I fumbled around, wishing I had some sort of perfect answer. What if I said the wrong answer and ruined everything?
Then my own children started asking me about Santa. After talking about it year after year, I have found something that sticks. I finally have a great and simple solution for talking about Santa without lying or spoiling it.
Being “Santa neutral” parents
My husband and I decided to be “Santa neutral” parents. I never believed in Santa, but my husband did. We decided to play it by ear. We wouldn’t ignore Santa or condemn him, but we wouldn’t push Santa on them either.
To be perfectly honest, around the time my kids were 2 and 3 years old, we decided to be crystal clear about Santa and how the real person behind him was the generous bishop named St. Nicholas. The story of St. Nicholas is incredible, and he did leave behind an impacting legacy that we hope will inspire our children to live generously and graciously.
But then as our children got older, and they noticed their friends believed in Santa, it seemed they were trying to convince us that Santa was real too.
I found it interesting that our children started asking about Santa since they actually knew the truth. But as “Santa neutral” parents, we went along with their lead.
We gave them the option to write letters to Santa, to visit him and get pictures with him, and we even enjoy movies about Santa together.
What to Say When Children Ask if Santa is Real!
I really think that when children ask if Santa is real, it is a time when they are starting to decide for themselves what the truth is.
They are gathering all the facts, and now they have some questions. This is the time to start helping children put the pieces together.
When our own children ask if Santa is real, we respond with this simple question.
“What do you think?”
If they respond by saying they think he’s real, then we listen.
Currently, my five-year-old son affirms that Santa is real. I see this as his way of showing us that he wants to get caught up in the magic and excitement of Santa for this time in his life. We just need to let him enjoy it and find ways to have fun with it together. Our daughter felt this way last year, but now she sees things a little differently.
She still enjoys all of the Santa outings that we do, but she is noticing some inconsistencies.
She has mentioned that Santa has flying reindeer. I’ve used that as an opportunity to sprinkle some more truth.
I ask, “Have you ever seen reindeer fly?”
Then we discuss what types of animals fly.
We saw Santa while we were at a restaurant the other night. My daughter cheered with delight when we unexpectedly saw him as we pulled into the parking lot.
Then as Santa was closer, she whispered to me,
“Mom, that’s not Santa. He has the wrong beard.”
I just nodded and giggled.
We have another year before our youngest child will start learning about St. Nicholas, and we plan to let her take the lead as she starts asking questions too.
But at least for now, I’m so glad we know exactly what to say when she gets old enough to ask about Santa too.