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What Age Should You Tell Your Kids About Santa?

Updated on December 27, 2012

In answering a question : "What age should you tell your kids about Santa?", it is difficult to remain objective and not be coerced by nostalgia. For those of us who had parents who chose to play along with the Santa Claus mythology, we can't imagine Christmas without the "magic" of Christmas. All these years later, Santa still resonates, and for some, they wouldn't consider depriving their children of the same experience they had as a child. The predicament comes when you ask this question while reminiscing: would Christmas have been any less special if our parents had told us that Santa was make-believe? If our parents had sat down with us and said, "Santa represents good-will, kindness, thoughtfulness, cheer, generosity, and it is wonderful that humanity has created such a figure to lead the Christmas parade as we march with our families through time."

In describing the true nature of Santa Claus to your child at an early age, you create a foundation of trust. This foundation is infinitely more important than creating a fiction that will inevitably need to be broken, and at the cost of trust and respect of the people who were complicit in the mistruth. Your children's lives can still be rich with fantasy, but do them the honor of respecting their needs before pushing your needs on them. Ask yourself, are you creating the Santa Claus fiction for your benefit, or for their benefit? Children want to learn the nature of reality. It is in their blood from the very beginning. It's why they love to ask why. It's why they love to pick things up and chew things and wander places they probably shouldn't. Their curiosity -- their needs as children -- are infinitely better served by doing your best to explain the true nature of things to them instead of trying to help them enjoy their childhood by creating an insidious, recurring lie.

What age do you think you should tell your kid about Santa Claus?

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Additionally, the myth of Santa stifles a child's imagination. Would you rather your children be part of a fantasy that has had all of its chapters written for many generations or to create their own fantasies and use their creative juices to broaden their mind. It's critical that a parent teaches his or her child the difference between make-believe and reality. Santa is make-believe. So what? Barbie is make-believe and girls haven't lost any "fun" because of it over the years. Transformers are make-believe. A lot of the toys and shows and experiences that resonate with children are based in a fantasy world -- but we never try to convince them that the fantasy world is the real world. We are always careful to make the distinction and teach them where the boundary exists. Yet, inexplicably, we cross it when it comes to Santa (and to lesser extent the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. And, if you were raised in my house, the wicked witch of the west, who circled the neighborhood on nights my vegetables seemed less than palatable)

Yet another reason to tell your kids about the true nature of Santa is that they should know that it is you, your child's mother or father, who is giving them a gift. It is never too young to start making these connections -- that mom and or dad leave each day to make money so that we can live in this house, eat this food, and give each other these gifts. It will soon create a reciprocal respect between you and your child, especially when they begin to conceptualize your actions as a parent. The last thing you need to worry about is robbing your child of his or her imagination. They have a deep well of it that will not run dry. What each parent, however, should worry about is whether they are raising a child who is capable of using logic to understand the nature of reality. Be honest with your child, always. Besides feeding, housing, and clothing them, your honesty is going to propel them toward a healthy adolescence.

But what will the other parents think? Who cares. You are your child's parent. Your responsibility is to do what is right for your child, even if that means standing up for an ideal that is as unpopular as this one. So, how old should your kid be when you tell them about Santa? What age do we inform them that he is make-believe? As soon as they begin to understand the difference between real and make-believe, you should let them in on the secret.


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    • Red Anchor profile image

      Red Anchor 6 years ago from United States

      Ecomama - I actually thought about this as well while writing the article. I think God is much trickier to explain than Santa and should probably align with a parent's religious beliefs (or lack thereof). In an ideal world, I'd like to think that kids can eventually find God on their own once they've developed the capacity for abstract thought, or, similarly, that they find their own way without a higher being in their life. Too often parents are intent on creating little duplications of themselves instead of teaching their kids *how* to think and come to their own conclusions.

    • ecomama profile image

      Jacquie The Underground Goddess 6 years ago from NC

      So should we do the same thing when it comes to talking about God? I'm serious. Once I found out Santa was a fake I started wondering about everything else my parents told me.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I more or less figured out Santa was a myth and my children did the same.

    • Healthy Pursuits profile image

      Karla Iverson 6 years ago from Oregon

      So true! When I was 22, I did with my son what my parents did with me - I made believe that Santa was real without telling my son that he wasn't. My son found out like most kids do - somebody at school made fun of him for believing in Santa. While he didn't accuse me in any way, I had to comfort him, and felt like a total schmuck.

      However, when I was 42 and my grandson was little, his mom and I talked it over, and we told him that Santa was the make-believe spirit of giving. When he was too little to know the difference between make-believe and real, he believed. As he grew enough to know the difference, he naturally changed how he believed in Santa without being traumatized or feeling foolish. Both ways, we had lots of fun!