It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Of course, maybe not so much if you’ve got a young boy or girl in your house who’s been questioning the validity of Santa Claus. Psychologist Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker perfectly summarizes the experience in her article “When Your Child Asks, Is Santa Real?“
“Somewhere around 6 or 7 or 8, your child poses that dreaded question. It can mark the end of a certain kind of innocence for the child and an end of a fun chapter of parenting for the adults.”
It’s one of the most emotional turning points in a child’s life and how the news breaks to them is very important in determining how they’ll deal with it. And while there is no fixed age for when it will happen, it’s very likely that it will, which is why it’s best to stay prepared in case you’re suddenly required to deal with it.
It is very likely that an older kid or maybe even a friend will be the one to break the news to your child. Or some kids just start questioning the logic behind Santa on their own. Okay, maybe the bearded old man riding a magical sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer makes sense. But how on earth could he possibly travel around the world in one night? And of course, those multiple sightings in the mall or the sight of a drunk Santa entering his motel room definitely don’t help. In either case, University of Texas Psychology professor Jacqueline Woolley believes it’s not something for parents to dread.
It’s a clear cut sign of emotional maturity when your child starts asking these questions. And according to Woolley, the best way to deal with it isn’t to nervously admit the truth to your child, but to give them the necessary tools/tips to reach a definitive conclusion on their own.
“If your child asks you ‘Is Santa real?’ why not present the question right back to him or her — Do you think he is? Are you starting to think he isn’t? Did you hear something that has changed your mind? What does Santa mean to you?”
Woolley points out that the fact that your kids are questioning the validity of Kris Kringle means they’ve already formulated a model in their minds, with all the points supporting and refuting Santa mapped out. You don’t necessarily have to be the bearer of bad news. Just gently push them towards the right direction and let them find their own way to a conclusion.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker says that the family could turn the situation into something very positive, creating new family traditions that everybody can enjoy.
“Older kids can stay up to help put some presents under the tree. Younger kids can help you label some gifts “from Santa with love” to give to relatives. Everyone can be a ‘Santa’ by participating in a toy drive for needy families, by taking food to the local food pantry or by throwing coins in a Salvation Army bucket.”
This would also be the right time to really start educating your child on the moral values of Christmas. Kris Kringle, in the 1947 classic Miracle on 34th street, calls Christmas “a state of mind”. And it very much is. But if you’re too harsh in breaking the reality over to your child, they could grow up completely ignoring this fact, and end up becoming like one of those buzzkills in your office who want nothing more in life than for everybody to agree with them that Christmas is a fake holiday. How very sad.
Fake? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. Who cares? That’s not what the spirit of Christmas is about.
Merry Christmas to you all!
[Feature Image by Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock]