Published on November 25, 2014 inParenting on LandOMoms.com
Telling kids the truth about Santa and the tooth fairy is something I hoped I would be prepared for when it finally happened. The truth is, I was not. The chat with our son happened after a discussion at school about the real Saint Nicholas. Following that discussion was another conversation with peers where he learned the news from friends then shared with us that we didn’t have to continue pretending anymore. Say what?
It is a bittersweet moment when the roles of Santa and the tooth fairy come to an end. Fearing the loss of gifts, I never admitted to my mom that I was in the know until I turned 12 years old. Then, when Santa brought me only a package of candy due to my disbelief, and my siblings received their usual elaborate gifts, I was so sad and said that I believed again so I could continue participating in the tradition.
I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to handle this, since it really depends on your child and how long you want to keep the magic alive. With that in mind, here are some tips that I wish I had read before having the big talk with my children.
If They Ask, Tell Them the Truth. Maybe. I may have been a great liar when I was a kid, but I am a terrible one now. When our son asked if these things were real, I told him that they were not. I think a lot of this, though, is dependent on your child’s age and maturity. My son was old enough for me to share the truth, and he wasn’t disappointed about it. With younger children, it might be a little trickier.
If your child is crying and asking if Santa is real because another child has told them he wasn’t, try responding with a question like, “Do you think Santa is real?” If they say yes, then tell them that if they believe Santa is real, that’s all that matters.
If you feel your child is ready to talk about it though, offer the explanation about the real Santa, who no longer is alive, but share that his spirit carries on when people are generous to each other. This does not take away from the magic of Christmas or the generosity that Christmas inspires. He was a wonderful giver, and that inspires us to give to others too.
I feel that broaching the topic of the tooth fairy or Easter Bunny is much easier, and disclosing that they don’t exist was a lot less disappointing in our house than the information about Santa.
Affirm Their Disappointment: If your child is disappointed in the truth, it is important to be empathetic, but also acknowledge their disappointment by affirming it: “I know it is sad that it isn’t real. I was also disappointed when I found out.”
If you have a personal anecdote to share, indulge them in the story of your own discovery. It will add to the connection and help them discuss their feelings.
Encourage Them to Keep the Magic Alive for Others: Once you break the news, strongly encourage them to keep the magic alive for their siblings and other kids that believe. When I talked with my son, I explained that he is older than his sister, and for many years we kept the magic alive for him. We asked that he do the same for his sister until she begins to ask questions or draw her own conclusions.
As we talked to the kids about what Santa might be bringing for Christmas this year, I looked at my son with his knowing smirk as I chatted about ideas with them both. He has never given it away, but I can tell he is enjoying being part of the grown-up club, and I admit, I love having him here with me.