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Breaking the news about Santa

12.19.18 | Parenting | by Cathy Hutton

Breaking the news about Santa

    What do you say when your child comes to you and demands to know the truth about Santa? How do you help your child over this important childhood threshold without losing any of the magic and wonder of Christmas? What if you have younger kids who still believe? Try these tips to help your children not only understand but learn the joy of giving and become part of the magic of Christmas themselves.

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    I’d like to say that my husband Ames and I had an intentional conversation about the whole “Santa” situation, but we didn’t. Somewhere along the way, we decided our mantra regarding Christmas would be “you have to believe to receive.” The fact that there was a Santa and he brought presents on Christmas was just that: fact. We didn’t think about that day when one of our precious people would come to us and want to know the truth.

    Christmas of 2004 was a little unexpected. Our fourth child was due on December 31st, but he decided to make an early appearance! On Christmas Eve, we arrived home with our own Christmas baby, but his early arrival left us in a bit of a pickle - we weren’t quite ready for Christmas for our other three.

    We learned a great lesson that year as we watched our children happily open the few presents under the tree: they were just fine. They didn’t need or expect more. That was the year we, inadvertently, began the four present rule: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. For us, the something you want was always from Santa.

    We fully embraced all the wonder and magic of Christmas with our children, but we also had a practical side. Our tiny house and tiny budget couldn’t fit all the “wants” every year, times four! The kids knew that we were in cahoots with Santa. We told them that Santa knew our rules and our boundaries, and he wouldn’t bring them something we didn’t approve of (this came in very handy the year our third child asked for a python). We had a brilliant plan. It was working beautifully, and all was well.

    That is until our oldest walked into our room and said, “I know the truth about Santa.”

    The moment of truth

    While I wish I could say I had researched and planned for this moment, the truth is that I was completely unprepared. So I approached it in the same way I had learned to approach other difficult conversations with kids.

    “What do you know about Santa?” I asked. She said, “I know that you and Daddy are Santa.”

    At that moment, I realized I had been given a gift (thanks, Jesus!). She hadn’t said “Santa isn’t real!” or “You’ve been lying to me!” Because we had always been a part of the Santa situation, she just knew that we were Santa. So I said, “You are such a big girl now and so very smart.  You’re right. We are Santa, and you know what, now that you know, you get to be Santa too!”

    She looked at me like I had three heads for a minute, but then I explained. Now she got to be part of the magic and the wonder of Christmas. She got to go behind the curtain, knowing and seeing things that would help make Christmas special for her brothers. This was a big deal, a sign that she was growing up. With this knowledge came great responsibility, and we knew she was up to the task.

    You have to believe to receive

    There was one small hitch, we told her. Just because she knew the truth didn’t mean she stopped believing. You have to believe to receive. Santa would still bring her presents, too.  This was the deal. She nodded, smiled and never looked back.

    Over the years, each of our other children came to the realization about Santa in their own time and in their own way. When our sweet little Christmas baby finally came to us to hear the truth about Santa, I have to admit that we were all a little sad. It seemed like it was over at that point.  

    Then, I had a great reminder from my kids - you have to believe to receive.  

    They truly had embraced the magic of Christmas, the joy of giving. They loved seeing faces light up when presents were opened and surprises revealed. So, they started drawing names among themselves and doing a Secret Santa Sibling exchange. They love getting names from the giving trees at church and the angel trees at the mall. Even though they know that they won’t see the faces of those children on Christmas morning, they know what they will look like - lit up from the inside, full of the wonder and joy of Christmas.  

    Tips for ‘The Talk’

    So, my fellow parents, when that day comes that your precious children want to know the truth about Santa, I have two pieces of advice:

    1. Meet them where they are. Start by asking questions about what they think or believe to be true, because you will usually find the right way to answer in their responses.

    2. Make them a part of the magic. Knowing doesn’t mean you have to stop believing.  Knowing just means that now you get to be part of something truly special.

    You have to believe to receive.

    Without knowing it, we taught our children - and they, in turn, taught us - that the gift is in the giving and the believing truly is receiving.


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