Telling your kids about Santa

Alert: Major Santa Claus spoilers below.

The big guy with the twinkle in his eye is making his annual appearance just about everywhere these days. He’s at the mall. He’s bringing up the rear in parades. And he is once again making fibbers of otherwise honest parents.

I’m fully onboard with Santa Claus, but this year I paused a moment when my daughter asked me a direct question about the existence of the jolly guy. We were donating shoeboxes full of toys to children, and I explained to my 5-year-old daughter that some children don’t get any gifts for Christmas. Several hours later, she slyly asked, “Mom, does Santa visit every child in the world?”

I knew where her line of logic was going. I fumbled my way through an answer about how the kids we had sent gifts to would also get a gift from Santa, but their parents couldn’t afford to buy them presents.

I didn’t like the idea of spinning a tale to convince my daughter of Santa’s existence. But I do love the idea of Santa Claus. As a child, I loved the magic of Christmas Eve. Even now I still harbor that magical feeling. I want my daughter to feel that way, also.

But how does telling the tale of Santa Claus really affect children? It’s the same question that could be asked about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy: Does a little white lie to promote fantasy and magic hurt children?

I’ve heard from some people who worry believing in Santa will make their children someday doubt whether similar faith-based stories like Jesus and God are true. If mom and dad lied about one generous man who sees every child’s deeds, then couldn’t God be a myth, too?

It’s a tough question. But honestly, I land on the side of thinking it’s just not that big of a deal. I never doubted the existence of God once I knew about Santa Claus. I also didn’t distrust my parents. If anything, I’m grateful to them for letting me fully enjoy the wonder of the Christmas season.

For parents that are concerned they may be doing lasting harm to their children by pushing Santa, WebMD has some helpful tips. One pediatrician says parents can stay vague. Rather than discuss Santa as a real person, talk about him more symbolically as a representation of peace, love and generosity. Or, turn the tables on your kids when they ask probing Santa questions. Ask them how they think reindeer can fly or how one man can visit every child in one night. Let their imaginations run wild.

One day, my daughter will find out the truth about Santa. She’ll find out the world isn’t a place where reindeer fly with a kind, generous man to bring joy and gifts to impoverished children. Until that day, I don’t mind her believing that such a world — and such magical goodness — exists.

How do you approach Santa in your house? Do you think it’s just childhood fantasy or a recipe for lasting harm?

 

5 comments

  1. Danny Chipman

    Great topic for a post! I’ve given this a lot of thought lately. I have two daughters, ages 5 and 2, and while the 2-year-old doesn’t seem all that aware of the Santa tradition yet, the 5-year-old sure is.

    Up until a couple years ago, my husband and I really hadn’t come to any decision about whether to do Santa or not. I do feel uncomfortable telling “white lies” to my kids. My brother-in-law actually did go through a period of inactivity as a youth because he felt, “Hey, my parents lied about Santa, probably Jesus isn’t real, either.” Also, another of his siblings does not do the Santa tradition in her family and instead exchange their own gifts.

    Unfortunately, my mother beat us to the Santa punch and started filling my daughter’s head with all the Santa lore. And it was hard to not enjoy the way my daughter’s eyes lit up when “Santa” dropped in for a surprise visit at our ward Christmas party. There is something magical and contagious about young children’s enthusiasm at Christmas, and I think children honestly need that sense of wonder.

    So, after some pondering, this is how we’ve decided to approach the issue: St. Nicholas (aka “Santa Claus”) really WAS a real person who, back in the 4th century, gave generous gifts to the poor. He’s no longer around, but we can help do his work anonymously so that others can rejoice in him.

    Same thing with Christ. Christ is also no longer on this earth, but we can be His hands and serve His children, that they may glorify God. In that way, our children can learn about kindness, love, and service from TWO real-life examples.

    The rest of the Santa Claus legends just got tacked on for fun.

    • Erin Stewart

      I love your solution to this. It ties in so nicely with the real meaning of Christmas, but still allows for the magic and fun. -Erin

  2. Danny Chipman

    Thanks! I probably won’t bring this up until they start questioning the Santa Claus logistics–let them enjoy the magic while they can.

    Not that I’d mind if they figure it out sooner than later–then we can get a little more credit for the gifts we get them, not to mention save some money because we won’t have to give “parent” gifts AND “Santa” gifts. :)

  3. Margerat Brewster

    We have never taught our children about Santa. They love Christmas celebrating the incarnation of God. We have focused on the Christmas story alone. God, loved the world so much he sent his Son, that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life. I can’t think of anything else to add that is more precious to their lives than that. What is more ‘magical’ than The God of the universe wrapping himself in flesh and being born of a virgin. And, the beauty of it all is that it is all true. We look forward to Christmas because it is when we celebrate our Lord’s birthday. I can’t imagine how an imaginary guy dishing out presents competes with the beauty of the real reason for Christmas. My children have never wished to celebrate it any other way. They believe God should get all the glory for what he did at Christmas. That sacrifice was too big to share with anyone else. Christ is a savior. The real St Nicholas worshipped and served him.

  4. Danny Chipman

    We treat Christmas as two holidays in my family: the 24th for focusing on Christ and the nativity, singing hymns about his birth, doing acts of service, and reading out of the scriptures together.

    The 25th we allow for gifts and fun time visiting with family. We’ve never had to worry about one aspect of Christmas dominating the other.

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