Is Santa real? What to do when your child asks that dreaded question

Let’s face facts. 

Our children all reach a point when they realise that we have been lying to them since they were teeny and that sadly, Santa Claus does not exist.

Aside from keeping our children mentally, physically and emotionally safe (no big thing, right?), making a childhood (and adulthood for that matter) filled with magical memories is for me, the most important thing I can do as a parent. 

I want my children to look back and be flooded with memories of the adventures we have had.  And I want them to believe in magic.  In this world in which we live where the most horrific things happen daily, enabling our children to escape and believe whatever they want to is hugely important on so many levels.  And Father Christmas is, of course, a big part of that. 

I do everything in my power to allow and enable my children to believe in the magic of Christmas and the guy in the big red suit.  But the fact is, even I cannot keep up this fib forever.  So what do you do when your child stops believing?

This momentous happening in some ways marks an end to a chapter of their childhood.  But it is also an opportunity.  The magic does not have to end; it just needs to be redefined.

Instead of simply agreeing with your non-believing child when they proclaim Santa isn’t real, a response along the lines of  ‘Congratulations, I am so proud of you for figuring this out.’  is a great reply.  

From there you can go on to explain that now they can help you make the magic for the younger ones.  Tell them how special they are that they get to keep the secret with you.  Make plans and giggle over how you are going to plant some letters from Santa or leave treats from one of the Elves.  Make them feel that they are the most important, clever person in the world for figuring this out, and instead of this being a crushing moment, you can make it magical in its own right – it is simply a case of moving the boundaries.

Children grow up so fast, and I for one don’t believe in either speeding that up or, in the alternative, trying to stop it either. 

I don’t want my child to be the only one in the class who doesn’t know the truth simply because I have chosen to insist Santa is real when they are old enough to understand that he isn’t.  But that doesn’t mean I am ready to accept that this marks an end to Christmas magic.  It’s just a different kind. 

Sharing a secret this massive, making them feel important to know it, and embracing the bond that is created by them being privy to something ‘grown-up’ when the others are not, can be very special if you choose to make it that way.  So please don’t give up on the magic.  Just redefine it.  Because everyone, young and old, deserves to wallow in the joy and magic of Christmas for as long as possible.

What do you think? Would you sit your child down and tell them or let them figure it out? 

Sally Hall is proud mum to four, founder of Dorothy & Theodore and author of One out of Nine - her soon to be published debut novel. She's also a lawyer in her free time! She is passionate about making memories and keeping them beautifully safe.

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