Why We’ve Told Our Kids the Truth About Santa
“Do your kids believe in Santa?”
During the holiday season, this is a question we are asked over and over again. We are parents to little ones and [especially in faith circles] individuals are always curious as to where other parents stand on this particular issue.
Before I became a mom, I was an elementary teacher, and the topic of Santa Claus was handled very carefully in my classroom. The majority of my teaching experience is with second and third-graders, and in that age group, there is always great variety in how families approach the truth about Santa and his elves. My typical m.o. was to encourage students to save their questions and discussions about Santa for home – I wanted their parents to be able to address this topic in whatever way they had chosen. It was not an area where I felt I should interfere, and I most definitely discouraged students who knew the truth from sharing their knowledge with “the believers”. I did not want to be held responsible for ruining anyone’s Christmas with their family.
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However, I have to say that it continues to amaze me that this aspect of Christmas continues to be such a hot-button topic. When you do not agree with another family’s approach to Santa (or Elf on a Shelf), there can be great offense taken.
I hear grown adults saying that they “still believe”….because “If they don’t believe, Santa won’t come.”…and they explain how they insist that their older children “still believe” or Santa will not leave any presents for them under tree. I have listened to countless conversations where parents describe their panic….and the great lengths they have gone to [in the middle of the night] to ensure that Elfie has “moved”….and followed through with his/her late night shenanigans. Friends, I have to admit…this entire thing has gotten unbelievably out of hand.
What happened to teaching children the history of who St. Nick really was? What happened to simply including his character in our Christmas celebrations in the same way we include other imaginative, make-believe creatures such as snowmen, Gingerbread creations, Christmas mice, etc?
Even in many Christian homes, the daily holiday focus is not on the Christ child…It is on elf shenanigans….and telling Santa what you want for Christmas…and scattering magical reindeer food out in the front yard. Social media is full of photos with Santa, letters to elves, presents from Elfie, but what about Jesus? What about the Savior of the World? What about the hope that Christ brought in to the world with Him? What about acts of kindness and generosity that can be shared with others this Christmas season because of Him? What about those things?
Some of you may feel I’m wanting to strip all of the fun out of Christmas, but let me explain. There are few things more fun than a child’s imagination. I love the way our children enjoy make-believe. We encourage this type of creativity and love experiencing these kinds of magical things with them, but even at their young age, we are honest with them. When something is real, we tell them it’s real. When something is make-believe, we tell them it’s make-believe. We want them to be able to easily distinguish between reality and fantasy. This year, we’ve painted reindeer; we’ve read books about snowmen that dance at night; we’ve laughed about a picture we saw where Santa had gotten stuck in the chimney; we’ve watched a Mickey Mouse Christmas movie; we’ve waved at Santa in the parade; but we tell our children that it’s make-believe…just like Curious George…just like Daniel Tiger.
Why Have We Chosen to Tell Them the Truth?
From an early age – when our children ask us questions – we want them to know that they are going to get a completely honest answer. We want them to understand the importance of always telling the truth, and we want to model that for them. We do not want to ever have to sit down and explain to them that “Mommy and Daddy were fibbing about____________”. We want them to feel that we can be trusted. We want them to know that their hearts and minds are completely safe with us.
A nauseating sense of entitlement is raging all around us…in children and adults. We want our children to have a clear understanding that they will not always get what they want. Just because they wish for something to happen, that doesn’t mean it will. Just because they believe something with all of their might, it doesn’t mean that good things will happen for them. Real life is full of disappointments and unfilled expectations – Even in their early childhood, we want to begin to provide them with realistic expectations.
We want to create a family atmosphere that fosters gratitude to the One who gives us all good things and contentment with what God has given us. James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above… from our Heavenly Father.” He is the One who has provided daddy with his job….He is the One who has allowed us to have a home and vehicles…It is from His hand that we are clothed and fed…It is because of Him that we can give generously to others. We refuse to tarnish this truth…no matter the season.
We want the holidays to include an incredibly strong focus on others. We don’t ask our children “What do you want for Christmas?” We don’t provide them with catalogs, on-line pictures, etc. to use for picking out what they want for Christmas. We don’t assist them with setting up gift registries to share with our close family and friends. So what do we do instead? We consistently ask, “What would like to do for (insert name) for Christmas?” “What should we make for (insert name) for Christmas?” “What should we give to (insert name) who is hurting this time of year?” These are the questions we ask – We want to encourage our children to look outside of themselves – even at Christmas – and find the true joy that comes from living an others-focused life.
I realize that for many parents, the long-time traditions of Santa and the new experiences with Elf on a Shelf are simply viewed as fun traditions…experiences from their childhood that they want to share with their children. I realize that the enthusiasm for these things is not out of any intention to harm or be deceitful. I understand that many families who encourage belief in Santa [and his elf helpers] always throw birthday parties for Jesus and very much focus on the Savior as well throughout the holiday season…but when asked whether or not our kids believe in Santa, this would be my long answer.
As always, thank you for reading and thank you for your continued respect and kindness.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to check out 5 Non-Toy Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids.
I appreciate your heart in this and your intentionality in parenting your kids to know, love, and CELEBRATE Jesus! I’m totally on the same page with you in the whole Santa dealio. Fun tradition, but let it be that! And I’m certainly not going to lie to my kids. I’m not “offended” by Santa as some Christians seem to be. Let’s talk about St Nick and look for ways we can bless others as well! Thanks so much for this post. So happy to have found your blog!
Yes, I’m so glad we’ve connected! Thank you for stopping by for a visit!
I think people are unknowingly perpetuating an injustice by making Santa anything more than a fun makebelieve tradition because how do you explain why Santa doesn’t bring presents to some kids, especially in impoverished parts of the world? Because they didn’t believe enough?
This is a really good point, Amanda! I appreciate you bringing it up as it’s definitely something to think about! Thank you so much for sharing!
I respect your decisions to tell your kids about Santa, but there is no reason this has to be an either/or thing–as in “either you tell them the truth or you don’t”. There are so many ways to be honest, but still allow children to believe in the magic of Santa (or the magic of a fairy tale, etc) AND still focus on religion and giving.
Thanks for reading, Krista! I’m so glad we’ve connected, and I hope you and your family has a very special Christmas! I can’t believe it’s almost time for the big day!
I really appreciate and like how you handled this. We were honest with our kids. We did some “Santa” pictures over the years… but they knew it was pretend. IF we fib on Santa, Easter Bunny,… who’s to say we are not fibbing on Jesus or other things that are so important! Thank you!!!
I agree, Pam! I’m so glad we’ve connected! Please come back and visit soon!
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
That was how we felt about santa when i was raising my daughter who is now 44. That was the whole point. To know that Jesus was real, santa was not. I also explained that some other chilfren were taught differently and not to spoil their “game”.
My parents were like you. We were never part of the Christmas fantasy. I felt cheated that other kids dreamed of magic and I went to bed knowing the painful truth. Do you always tell your kids the truth about everything? That’s what I couldn’t understand. They’d tell a white lie to throw a surprise party, but not to give us a magical fantasy-filled Christmas. ?…and, btw, people have been complaining of “entitled” generations since the beginning of time. There’s a scientific basis for you feeling that way. Look it up.
I agree with you Meg. Let kids be kids. If we were to tell our kids the truth all of the time this would rob them of all their innocence and imagination. Think about this, being honest about everything forces children to think like adults and deal with adult situations that their little minds just sent ready for. #letourkidsbekids
Thank you so much for reading, Cherie! I’m so glad you are here! I hope you and your family have a sweet Christmas together!
Thank you for this. So many parents go to one extreme or the other. Either they go all out to make sure their kids believe in Santa or they ban any mention of Santa all together. I think it’s cruel to let them believe it’s real only to have to come up with a way to have the “Santa talk.” But there’s no harm in letting them have fun with Santa the same way they do with other make believe characters.
I feel the same way, Marian! Thank you so much for stopping by for a visit! I hope your holidays are wonderful!
I love this post- thank you! This is exactly the attitude we’re using with our two precious little ladies. We tell them Santa is pretend; its fun to watch movies or read books about him, but he’s like Cinderella… Pretend. We try to focus on Jesus and preparing our hearts for Him. And we try to help others rather than make Christmas lists. We’ve gotten some shock and flack from those who think Santa is fun, and no harm is done believing in him. Yet, it’s a distraction from our Savior! You have articulated our stance so well. Thank you for this article, it provides me with the confidence that we’re doing the best for our family.
I’m so glad we’ve connected, Lisa! I hope you and your family have a very special Christmas!
Our elf on the shelf was very religious and encoraged our kids to be kind and giving. He often reminded them about the true meaning of Christmas. Make believe and the true meaning Of Christmas.
Thank you for this post. In light of your family’s focus at Christmas time, what are some traditions that you have for your family? Do y’all do gifts? Advent? Thanks for your help in trying to make a meaningful holiday for my family 🙂
Hey Hannah! We love putting up a tree, exchanging gifts, and doing lots and lots of baking! haha! Here are a few of our other favorite traditions: https://thislittlehomeofmine.com/greatest-christmas-gift/ Merry Christmas to you and your sweet family!
I love this! My daughter is only 3 and my son is 14 months, but we knew from the beginning that we would teach them the truth. I don’t like that it’s often a distraction from the birth of Jesus Christ. I think this year the truth of His birth will really start to resonate in my daughter’s life.
I can’t wait.
I’m so glad we’ve connected, Christina! I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas!