How to tell your child the truth about Santa, including how you know it’s time, tips for explaining the truth, and a sample letter to write your child.
Last year we made the decision to tell our oldest child the truth about Santa.
He had been asking a lot of questions about how Santa delivers gifts to everyone and noticing little things, like how the Santas at stores and parties looked slightly different from each other. He was 7 1/2 years-old, and we decided it was probably time.
I wrote him a letter to read on his own, and then we sat down together and had a little chat. He cried a little bit, and it took him a few days to process, but then he was on board and excited about becoming part of “Team Santa” for his little sister and brother.
Making the decision and knowing how to tell your child the truth about Santa is big. Not every child is ready at the same time, and not every child will take it the same way.
With that in mind, I want to share some tips to help other parents know how to tell your child the truth about Santa, including when to know when your child is ready, and how to actually tell them the truth.
How to Tell Your Child the Truth About Santa
When do you know they’re ready?
Every child is different when it comes to being ready to know the truth. Some kids get told by friends at school or older cousins while playing together. Some kids are more mature than others, and some are more skeptical and realistic.
We told our son last year when he was seven, and this year our daughter is seven, but she is absolutely not ready to know the truth. Every child is different.
If your child has been pestering you with questions about Santa, his operation, how reindeer can’t fly, or what Santa does for kids who don’t have chimneys, it might be time.
It’s also important to consider if your child will be able to keep the truth a secret. Will they blab to little brothers or sisters? Will they immediately tell everyone at church? They need to be mature enough to trust not to tell people who aren’t ready to hear the truth.
When you tell your child, make sure that nobody can interrupt and little siblings won’t overhear. Do it somewhere they are comfortable and somewhere you can give them your full attention. I know I’m sort of being dramatic, but it’s a big deal and you don’t want the memory of telling them you’ve been lying for years to scar them for life.
How do I tell them? What do I say? What comes next?
Now that you know when to spill the beans, it’s important to know how to tell your child the truth about Santa.
First, you need to decide if you’re going to say yes or no to the question “Is Santa real?”. I know that sounds like an obvious question, but there are two ways of looking at it.
You could tell your child that no, Santa is not real, and that parents buy presents and pretend that Santa brought them. Or you could do what we did, and says yes, Santa is real, but Santa isn’t a jolly, bearded man in a big red coat. We told our son that Santa is not one single person, but a team of people who work together to make Christmas magical. Specifically, we said “Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others.”
Next, you need to explain why you’ve lied to them for years of their life. Emphasize that it wasn’t to trick them or be mean, but believing in Santa teaches them about the magic of Christmas, giving to others, and believing in something they cannot see or touch. It’s just a fun way to celebrate, and a way to make the season more special.
Answer any questions your child has, and prepare for tears and to give them time to process the truth. Our son sat on the sofa in shock for a while, and then it wasn’t until the next day that he realized what it truly meant, and that’s when the tears flowed. It also helps to make sure you and your spouse are on the same side, so you can tell them together and comfort them during this truth bomb (because honestly, that’s what it’s going to feel like to your child).
The biggest thing that helped our son adjust when we told him that we and many other people play the part of Santa is to welcome him to the Santa “team” and let him help make Christmas magical for his younger siblings and friends. Our son loves helping hide our Elf on the Shelf, and when we go see Santa at the store, he plays along. He even writes a letter to Santa, and helps his little sister and brother with theirs. After the initial shock of finding out the truth about Santa, playing along for his siblings and joining “Team Santa” has helped him understand the why behind Santa.
Sample letter to help you tell your child the truth about Santa
Before I wrote our letter to our son, I read a few different ones other people had written. I took some ideas from other letters and then added a few of my own. I thought it might be helpful for you all to see what my letter said.
Here’s what I wrote in our son’s letter:
You’ve asked us a few times if Santa is real, or if it’s just Mom and Dad. We know you want to know the truth, and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.
The answer is yes, Santa is real, but he is not just one single person.
Mom and Dad are the ones who fill your stockings and choose and wrap the presents under the tree—just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you will do for your kids someday.
This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see and touch. You need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.
So now you know the secret of how he gets down all of those chimneys on Christmas Eve. He has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy.
With full hearts, Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. We are not Santa, but no one person is. Santa is love and magic and happiness. We are on his team, and now you are, too. It’s important to keep this magic alive. Now that you understand, it’s up to you to give the gift of believing in Santa to your little sister and brother, friends, and one day, your own kids.
We love you so much, and we’re excited to have you on the Santa team.
Love, Mom and Dad
I hand wrote the letter and saved it in his memory journal so he can look back at it one day when he’s grown up. Plus, writing it out made it feel more heartfelt than if I had typed it. But that’s just me. You are absolutely allowed to type it out and give it to your child (whatever is best for your family!).
It can be scary and anxiety-inducing to tell your child the truth about Santa. They may be mad at you for a while, but they’ll adjust and be just fine. And honestly, when your child helps keep the magic alive for friends and siblings, it can be even more special than them thinking Santa comes down their chimney on Christmas Eve.
Good luck, mamas!