SPOILER ALERT – this post has information regarding Santa Claus – continue at your own risk.
If you are reading this, spoiler alert again, there is no actual Santa Claus. If I just surprised you, you are either too young to be on the internet, you somehow still believe in Santa, or your parents have done an impeccable job “lying” to you. (I don’t really consider it lying but at face value I suppose it is).
Anyways, I don’t have children so I haven’t any of my own experience on this topic other than my own story of when I found out about Santa and when I accidentally spoiled it for my little brother.
That being said, I came across this story about a year ago and bookmarked it as the best way to talk to your kids about Santa when they inevitably ask the big question, “is Santa Claus real?”
The Santa conversation, while seemingly a fairly simple talk, can actually be a pretty important conversation to have with your kiddos. One study found that upon learning your parents have lied to you, the Santa dilemma can undermine a child’s trust in their parents. Kathy McKay, a clinical psychologist at the University of New England, Australia said: “The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw. If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”Do I believe a child’s relationship with their parents could be damaged by this lie and thereby a child never trust their parents again? No, I think that is unlikely the majority of the time. However, I think there are good ways to go about explaining Santa to your kiddos and a few truly exceptional ways to break the truth around such a magical idea.Since I am huge on teaching/learning opportunities and moments, the following story is by far my favorite method for going about the Santa talk. I didn’t know how to reach out to Leslie Rush to ask if I could republish her story, but I give her all the credit for their genius method of “transitioning” kids from believing in Santa to becoming a Santa.In this family, they use the Santa talk as an opportunity to explain how the “Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit.” Leslie advises to have this talk when your kid is around 6-7, or whenever you begin to notice they suspect that Santa isn’t real.
Make some time to take your kid(s) out for coffee at a local coffee shop (or simply out to a favorite spot), grab a booth and some drinks, and break the exciting news; it is time to become a Santa Claus.
“You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too.”
Here, you can point out a few examples where your child has demonstrated empathetic behavior, i.e. the “consideration of people’s feelings, good deeds, etc.”
“In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus. You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE.”
Then you can lead your kid through what makes being a Santa so great – from cookies to the end goal of the good feeling you get when you do something nice for someone else.
“Well, now YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!”
Leslie advises that you maintain a proper conspiratorial tone during this conversation as to excite your kiddo and get them on board with what comes next.
“We then have the child choose someone they know — a neighbor, usually. The child’s mission is to secretly, [mischievously], find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it — and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s unselfish giving.”
“[Leslie’s] oldest chose the “witch lady” on the corner. She really was horrible–had a fence around the house and would never let the kids go in and get a stray ball or Frisbee. She’d yell at them to play quieter, etc–a real pill. He noticed when we drove to school that she came out every morning to get her paper in bare feet, so he decided she needed slippers. So then he had to go spy and decide how big her feet were. He hid in the bushes one Saturday, and decided she was a medium. We went to Kmart and bought warm slippers. He wrapped them up, and tagged it “Merry Christmas from Santa.” After dinner one evening, he slipped down to her house, and slid the package under her driveway gate. The next morning, we watched her waddle out to get the paper, pick up the present, and go inside. My son was all excited, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The next morning, as we drove off, there she was, out getting her paper–wearing the slippers. He was ecstatic. I had to remind him that NO ONE could ever know what he did, or he wouldn’t be a Santa.
Over the years, he chose a good number of targets, always coming up with a unique present just for them. One year, he polished up his bike, put a new seat on it, and gave it to one of our friend’s daughters. These people were and are very poor. We did ask the dad if it was ok. The look on her face, when she saw the bike on the patio with a big bow on it, was almost as good as the look on my son’s face.”
When it came time for Son #2 to join the ranks, my oldest came along, and helped with the induction speech. They are both excellent gifters, by the way, and never felt that they had been lied to–because they were let in on the Secret of Being a Santa.”
There was one line from another story I want to include here as well:
“What [Santa] does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.”
So there you have it! One magnificent story and two beautiful ideas: teaching your kiddos that BEING a Santa, through acts of selfless kindness, is so much more fun and rewarding than simply believing in one and getting gifts — and that Santa teaches a child how to believe in something they can’t see or touch.
I can’t wait (figure of speech, I definitely can) to go through this with my own kiddos and to see all of the wonderful gifts they come up with over the years!