My son Junior found out Santa wasn’t real a month shy of turning 10. He took it really hard too. When he came into my room to confront me about the rumors he’d heard at school, I could see the weight of this new information was heavy on his mind.
When I explained the whole “spirit of Christmas is real even if Santa isn’t” line, it didn’t seem to make a difference. My son was heartbroken. He said to me, “I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny now. Or God. I don’t believe in anything anymore.”
That didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped. I would have gladly taken a dagger to the heart over his loss of faith in magic — and (sadly) me.
I’d begged my son to not tell his little brother, who, at 8, still had major feels for the fat man in red. He promised me he wouldn’t, and I can’t be sure he did, but my youngest found out within a week, and thus the legend of Santa died a sudden death in my home.
Curious as to how other moms handled this topic, I took to asking friends, acquaintances and even a few strangers, “How did you tell your kids Santa wasn’t real?” Here’s a pro tip: Make sure there aren’t any younger children within earshot when you ask the question. That mistake cost me one and a half friends.
The following answers are from actual parents who, like me, had “the Santa talk” with their curious child(ren). I have changed most of their names to protect their privacy and paraphrased where necessary. I do not endorse any of these methods as foolproof ways to prevent the decimation of a child’s Christmas hope, nor can I confirm or deny that many of these kids will need future therapy. But let’s be honest: They probably will, including my own child.
My research revealed some interesting themes in Santa-truthing. Some moms chose to be direct and lay reality on the line with no frills or fuss about “Christmas spirit.”
Mom A: “People are going to think I’m mean. I was married with three kids, and we lived on a small military income. We couldn’t afford the nice things that our kids would ask for. I told them there was no Santa Claus at a very early age for two reasons:
1) I didn’t want them to be sad and think Santa didn’t give them what they had asked for when everyone else they knew got what they wanted.
2) I was a very ‘by the Bible’ person back then and didn’t lie to my kids.
They were fine with it. I think. I guess I should ask them.”
Other moms didn’t have the chance to tell their kids because of their jerk-face exes.
Mom B: “I just have an ex-husband that wanted all the credit for gifts…”
(Not sure if that’s why they divorced, but it seems plausible.)
Some moms let their children take the lead or just never tell their kids at all.
Mom C: “My daughter asked if Santa was real, and I said, ‘What do you think?’ She was sheepish about it, and so I said, ‘No, but the spirit is.’ And then I said, ‘Don’t tell your sisters.’ Then I kinda felt like a little weight was off my shoulders. She wasn’t upset. The other two still believe, but I wonder, when will be a good age to tell them?”
Mom D: “We have never told the boys, and I don’t plan on ever telling them. I am sure our oldest son doesn’t believe at 15, but he’s never asked. Our other child still believes. We have always just told them that Christmas is magic. That is what I have always believed, and I loved the magic of Christmas growing up.”
A few parents said they waited until their child seemed ready to know — only to find out they weren’t.
Mom E: “I made sure my daughter really didn’t believe before I told her that she was right. Of course it crushed her world, as she still wanted to believe. Sorry, kiddo.”
Mom F: “My son seemed like he knew, because he’d been asking indirectly for the past year. So when I sat him down and told him Santa was actually me and his father, I didn’t expect him to start crying. But he did.”
Blogger Kimberly Thomas shared her story of telling her daughter that Santa was not a jolly fat man but rather Daddy. When her daughter nearly spilled the beans to her little brother, this mom used good old-fashioned Christmas threats to get her in line.
“If you tell your brother, you won’t get a thing for Christmas.”
Finally, one smart mom cautioned other parents to not overdo the honesty when they tell their kids about Santa.
Mom G: “If they ask if Santa is real, do not volunteer the information that neither is the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Apparently a fat man flying in a sleigh, delivering presents to millions of kids in one single night is the only far-fetched idea, and not a 6-foot bunny hopping about with baskets of candy.”
Is there a right way to tell your kids there is no Santa Claus? Probably not. But if you’ve already spun a web of lies, no matter how beautifully lit they seem, you’ll probably have a mess from which to untangle yourself.