Talk to Your Kids about Santa

Snow dusts the pine trees,lights go up on houses, the stores greet you with boxes and boxes of candy canes: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Your kids know this means a visit from St. Nick is just around the corner. As a parent, you might worry about conversations surrounding Santa with your kids. They might wonder why other kids got more gifts (or more expensive ones) from Santa and they didn’t. They may have started questioning the existence of a North Pole and flying reindeer. Knowing when and how to talk to your kids about Santa (or the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc.) can be challenging. Thankfully, parents have been having these talks with their littles for decades, so we’ve sorted through all the advice out there so you can find the best approach for your family! 

On the nice list, but-

When I was growing up, each Christmas day was spent with my mother’s side of the family. My cousins and I would each bring our favorite new toy and show each other our treasures before dinner. Some of the kids brought bigger ticket items than others to show off. Though the pricier gifts weren’t from Santa in our family, that could happen in your family or neighborhood. What should you say if your child finds out a kid on your street got several gifts or a new expensive gadget he says was from Santa? Does this mean you have to reveal yourself as the real Santa? Not necessarily! Here are some ideas:

  • Elf Work. Whether or not you have an Elf on the Shelf, you can use elves as an explanation. Say something like, “The elves’ job is to make toys for Santa, the same way Mommy and Daddy go to work. They get paid for the toys they make by Mom and Dad. Every year we send the elves money to pay them for your toys. Johnny’s parents probably sent Santa more money. We didn’t send them as much because we need to save some money for your birthday [other special day or event, etc]. ”(See more tips for talking about costs with kids). 
  • Rules. You can explain to your kids that you have rules about how many gifts Santa can bring. Maybe you let Santa know that the family only has room for three smaller presents this year, so Santa picked out the most special ones he could, and his elves even sprinkled extra love dust on them!
  • Gratitude. Let your kids know that some people will have more and some will have less than them in all areas of life. This never means they are less deserving or less good. Teach them to be grateful for what they do have.
  • Give and/or serve. Talk to them about giving gifts to their friends. Maybe they had to budget out enough for everyone, but it doesn’t mean they thought less of any friends. Donate or do service for others to help see the joy of giving rather than receiving. 
  • Plan in advance. You might be able to nip this conversation in the bud entirely if you follow some of the above suggestions before they ever notice gift discrepancies. 
  • Reveal the real Mr. and Mrs. Claus. In the end, you might decide that this is the time to tell your kids the truth about Santa. Knowing that everyone’s parents are Santa might help them not take it personally when they didn’t get something another kid did.
  • What not to do. Whatever approach is best for your child’s age and personality, remember not to make promises about next year getting a bigger gift if your finances will likely be the same. 

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

If you’re about to tell your kids Santa isn’t real, you’re likely a little nervous. Be prepared for them to ask about other characters, too. It’s best to let them know about all characters at once, so they feel they’ve had an honest conversation with you and aren’t left wondering later. You can explain the story of Santa in a way that keeps as much magic as possible at Christmas! After my parents told me, they still labeled some gifts from Santa even!

  • Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Start the conversation by reading this iconic newspaper article answering a little girl’s question. Explain how Santa does not live as a real person with flying reindeer, but he lives as an idea, something you can’t see like love or faith. 
  • Jolly Old St. Nick. Explain the story of the real Saint Nicholas and how people wanted to remember him, so lots of stories were made up about him all around the world.
  • Let them be Santa. You can tell your kids now that they know, they get to be Santa for others. 
  • Family Values. Talk about your family values, and why Santa was important in that. This can help them see you were not being dishonest, as well as help them understand. For example, if you are religious, you can talk about how the real St. Nick gave gifts to people because he wanted to be nice like Jesus and that now people play Santa to be like Jesus, too.

What age?

Knowing what age to tell your kids is actually really simple. Here are three indicators it’s time to tell, and when one pops up, it’s time!

  1. Age. If you’ve made it through most of elementary school with a believing child, it can be hard to break it to them. But, if your kid will be in junior high within a year or two, chances are most kids already know. The average age in the US is 8.
  2. Peers. On a similar note, if most of their friends are telling them Santa isn’t real, it’s best to have the conversation. It will be easier to hear it from you than their peers. 
  3. They ask. If a school age child is asking earnestly for the truth, tell them. Asking at an older age isn’t just curiosity or deduction, they want a conversation with those they trust most—you!

When it comes down to it, even if it seems scary to talk about, your kids will be ok! As adults, they will be so glad they had parents who made Christmas as magical as possible, and who were honest and upfront when questions came up, too. Maybe someday they’ll have kids of their own to be Santa for. Whether it’s an Elf on the Shelf or new traditions, the magic of Christmas will always live on! And speaking of elves . . . they’ve been hard at work making safe phones for Troomi, which look pretty good under the tree. 

Happiest of holidays from all of us at Troomi!