It never seemed like an option NOT to tell my kids there is a Santa.
We committed to the tradition mostly because I didn’t want my children to miss out on the magic. Plus, I felt like everyone else who celebrates Christmas has Santa traditions. So yeah, peer pressure and I didn’t know any way out.
It may sound silly, but I felt conflicted about lying. I felt even worse about planting false evidence to support the lie. You may suspect I overthink these things. Maybe I do.
Sure, it’s a white lie most children accept well when discovered. Or do they? It didn’t bother my son, Jacob, as long as he could still receive gifts (haha).
My girl, Alex, though, had a different response. The lying bothered her. I don’t know if there is data around the number of children who struggle when they discover Santa doesn’t exist. I imagine there are more children bothered than we know.
Recently, Alex explained her worries about Santa Claus. Had she been good enough? What if she couldn’t fall asleep before midnight? And isn’t it creepy to have a man sneak into my house at night while we’re all sleeping?. All fair concerns, right?
So when she learned the truth, she felt a little betrayed. Not life-altering resentment or anything, but still valid.
There are also the moral issues around Santa. Are children who receive more gifts good, while less fortunate children are bad? Is Santa always watching children waiting for the gotcha event that qualifies them for the bad list?
I wish I would’ve known there are other ways Santa Claus can be part of a family’s Christmas tradition without compromising values.
For example, parents can…
* Explain the difference between a myth and reality from early on. Developmentally, children can know something is pretend and still enjoy taking part.
* Tell children the gifts they receive have nothing to do with being good or bad. Gifts are unconditional and given out of joy.
* Learn about the real St. Nicholas. Perhaps create some kind of secret Santa situation where kids anomalously give gifts to other children who may be less fortunate. Here’s a splendid book that may help: The Wonderful Truth About Santa.
* Celebrate with filled stockings and small gifts from Santa, making it a smaller part of the tradition. Some even separate Santa from Christmas by celebrating Saint Nicholas day on December 6th.
Parents who choose nontraditional ways to approach Santa Claus should make sure their children respect other families who believe or celebrate differently. In other words, don’t ruin it for other children who may believe.
Deciding whether to tell your children the truth about Santa isn’t an enormous deal in the long run. It isn’t something that will ruin their lives as long as it’s kept in perspective.
Though it can be an opportunity to think outside the box and choose a tradition that aligns with your family’s values and enjoy guilt-free whimsy. Always remember, though, to check in with your kids about their feelings. Children are fantastic at keeping concerns secret.
Also, in case you’re wondering, Alex has forgiven us for Santa-Gate, as she has for other well-intended decisions we made.