Parents

How To Explain Santa To Your Child, From Parents Who've Been There

The "Santa talk" doesn't have to ruin the magic of the holidays.
12/01/2017 12:34pm ET | Updated December 7, 2018
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images
HuffPost Parents readers shared how they told their kids the truth about Santa Claus.

As the holidays approach, parents who celebrate Christmas might see their kids starting to doubt one major part of the gift-giving holiday: Santa Claus.

For the past few years, HuffPost has asked the HuffPost Parents community if they’ve tackled the “Santa talk” with their children. While some of our readers said their kids knew the truth about the man in red from the beginning, others offered simple explanations on how they talked with their kids about Mr. Claus.

Here are 13 ways families have explained Santa to their children (and a few funny reactions to boot):

Santa is someone people like to believe in for fun, like the Easter Bunny and Harry Potter.

“My oldest is 9 and asked me this year if Santa was real. I told him Santa is someone people like to believe in for fun, like the Easter Bunny and Harry Potter. In our house we imagine and play pretend often so it was easy for him to understand. Told him it’s mostly for the little kids and makes the holiday fun.” ― Anne Tink Flores

He lives in the thoughts and the hearts of everyone who does something selfless for another person.

“I told my children Santa is real, but not in the way that we think of as real. He lives in the thoughts and the hearts of everyone who does something selfless for another person. With that act, they become the essence of what we know to be Santa. My kids are in their 20s now and if you ask them, they will proudly say they believe in Santa.” ― Angela Robbins

It’s a fun magic to add to Christmas.

“My oldest was 8 and got curious so he started to press for information. After telling him it was a choice to believe or not to believe, and asking him, ‘What do you think and feel about it?’ he responded that he thought it was pretend. He said he felt that his dad and I were Santa. My reply was, ‘Well, it’s a fun magic to add to Christmas. And Dad and I love to surprise you on Christmas morning. And your sisters still think Santa is coming, so help us keep the magic going.’ With that he has been awesome. He still plays along to keep the surprise and magic of Christmas morning.”― Teresa Ingram

He seemed relieved and wanted confirmation of his thoughts.

“My 9-year-old asked, ‘Is Santa real? It’s OK if the answer is no.’ I told him no, that it was Mom and Dad filling the stockings and buying the presents, but he is real in the sense that he is a symbol of Christmas, a symbol of giving. We also tackled the Elf on the Shelf, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. He seemed relieved and wanted confirmation of his thoughts, but told me that we can still hide the elf and I can still mark some presents from Santa!” Jessica Waagner

We do Santa’s job in order to continue to spread his message of hope, spirit and love.

“My then 10-year-old asked during his younger brother’s karate class. At first, I answered as I had before, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know.’ After his brother went to bed, my husband and I talked to him one-on-one. I told him, ‘Yes, we put your gifts in your stocking.’ He started crying. I said, ‘But that does not make Daddy or me Santa. We do Santa’s job in order to continue to spread his message of hope, spirit and love. So yes, we put the presents in your stockings, but we are not Santa.’ We also talked about the history of Santa (he’s my history buff) and he handled it all really well.” ― Meaghan Greenleaf Wildes

I was honest with him and his brother, but also made them promise not to ruin it for anyone else.

“My 8-year-old son was having doubts last year so to test his theory, he hid Santa’s cookies. He said if they weren’t eaten, then he would know Santa wasn’t real. I spent an hour searching in the middle of the night for those darn cookies, but never could find them. I told him that maybe Santa just didn’t want to look for them or thought he didn’t make any. Finally about six months later, he asked me flat-out and I was honest with him and his brother, but also made them promise not to ruin it for anyone else. Then it occurred to them a few weeks ago ― how in the world did Mom and Dad get all those presents set up and keep all those secrets and pick out such cool presents? I think I impressed them.” ― Teri Davis

It’s something they can say to a friend who might try and spoil Santa for them.

“I’m a parent of four kids, but also a fourth-grade teacher. Every year there are questions at school about Santa. My standard response for these 9- and 10-year-olds is, ‘If you believe in Santa, he believes in you.’ It seems to work. And it’s something they can say to a friend who might try and spoil Santa for them.” ― Vicki Thompson Paris

She’s now Santa and the Tooth Fairy for her sister.

“I had the talk with my daughter about the spirit of giving and becoming a Santa herself. She was about to be 8, and she was already saying he’s not real and that she knew it already. I figured she heard it from classmates. She had me so convinced telling every member of our family that she knew, that one night, I decided to show her how other countries and cultures view Santa and his origin, before asking her to become a Santa for someone else.

In the end, I asked her if she enjoyed it while it lasted and if she felt we should continue the tales for her little sister who’s 2. She thought about it for a moment and replied that even though she didn’t like that we lied to her about the Tooth Fairy and Santa, she did like staying up and trying to catch them in their magic, so she’s now Santa and the Tooth Fairy for her sister, as she feels I am not convincing enough. She believes that she can conceal her magical identity better than I did for her.” ― Jenn Aguilar

He wrapped it up with a very gentle, “Thank you for telling me the truth about Santa, Mommy.”

“One night, as I was tucking in my sweet little one, he asked, ‘Is Santa real?’ I stopped for a second, then asked what he believed. ‘Some people say he’s not, but I’ve seen him. But I think you, me, Buela (my mom), and my cousins are the only ones left who believe.’

I then started telling him that a long time ago, there was a man who would give gifts to children, and his spirit lives on in each of us to this day (slight paraphrase). After a few blinks, he just started crying. ‘You mean Santa is dead?!’ he said.

Ugh. I had one chance, and I blew it. We talked for a bit, and he calmed down. He wrapped it up with a very gentle, ‘Thank you for telling me the truth about Santa, Mommy. I love you.’ Whew.”― Selma Altas

I would then tell them that Santa was love, joy and excitement, and have them wrap one or two presents for the young ones.

“When my older children started to question Santa I would take them aside at night when the younger ones went to bed. I would then tell them that Santa was love, joy and excitement, and have them wrap one or two presents for the young ones. (Not all because everyone needs a little mystery at Christmas.) All up until and through Christmas morning the older ones were so excited that they got to play Santa! They were also very excited and full of joy to watch the littles open their ‘Santa’ presents.” ― Dee Valente

This makes them a part of the magic and fun because what is better than getting to be Santa?

“We transition from belief in Santa to becoming an elf, helping to instill the spirit of giving, love, and Christmas by becoming part of the magic. Once one of our children had expressed they were no longer a believer in Santa, they were let in on the secret in order to help keep the magic alive for the next sibling. We emphasize how important it is to not deflate the younger sibling’s belief, and allow the older child to participate in hiding the mischievous elf or filling stockings. This makes them a part of the magic and fun because what is better than getting to be Santa? It has worked well so far. I’ve got one kiddo to go!” ― Kendra Votava

It’s up to you to believe in magic and in the spirit of giving, no matter what that looks like on the TV screen or in the stores.

“When my daughter was very young, she asked me to confirm if some of her friends were right about Santa not being real. I asked her back, ‘Should we stop giving and being kind to people if we find out Santa is just a marketing trick?’ She said, ‘No.’ Well, that’s your answer right there. It’s up to you to believe in magic and in the spirit of giving, no matter what that looks like on the TV screen or in the stores.

Now she is almost 11 and the other day said to me, ‘Mom, how could I believe you’d allow an old man to watch me when I am sleeping and let a stranger come into our house at night?’ And I said, ‘Of course I would not do that because Santa couldn’t possibly be just an ordinary guy. He is the spirit of giving, remember?’ She went ahead and wrote her letter to Santa, but it may be for the last time ever, so I’d better go look for that virtual reality thingy she asked for.” ― Ana Nita

They know he doesn’t exist as a person.

“We’ve told them that we are all Santa when we give our time, money or gifts to others. They know he doesn’t exist as a person, but that he is the spirit of Christmas.” Mirna Sierra-Duchemin

This post has been updated with new submissions. The answers have been edited and condensed for clarity and are made up of submissions received the last two years.

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