The Santa Myth: A Beautiful Way to Respond When Your Child Discovers the Truth

The Santa Myth: A Beautiful Way to Respond When Your Child Discovers the Truth

As of right now, my oldest who is 8 stills believes in Santa. I can only imagine this belief is short-lived. He’s a bright boy and was already asking questions last year. This year, he said he wants to install security cameras. I don’t think it’ll take him much longer to figure it out. Not to mention the extreme marketing of Elf on the Shelf. Considering, I’ve been teaching him the use of advertising, I’m pretty sure he’s working it all out in his mind. (You’d think they’d try to keep the commercials to a minimum.)

Santa: A Good Story or a Damaging One

When kids find out the truth about Santa, there aren’t any feelings of deceit, sadness, anger, or dreams shattered, right? No harm no foul? It depends on who you ask.

The opinions are completely mixed on this topic. Some say the Santa myth is a “good lie” and allows families to develop a close bond and magical moments, while other experts such as in this recent article say it’s downright damaging to our children. I’ve read a ton of comments by random parents and it’s split. It’s even split in my own home. I told my husband how I’m starting to feel a bit of guilt about keeping up with the story and I showed him the article above. He disagrees.

This topic also seems to evoke a lot of emotion in adults when remembering their own childhood. For example, one woman was extremely hurt as a child when she found out her parents had been lying to her. She had been adamantly defending her parents at school, telling everyone Santa is real because her parents wouldn’t lie to her. She felt embarrassed and mortified when she found out, and was teased by her peers in the process.

My story is a bit different. My mom retells it each year. My brother spilled the beans to me when I was 5. He kept asking my mom if Santa was real when he was about 9. When she finally let the cat out of the bag, his response was, “You lied to me?!”  He was so angry that he took me up to the attic and showed me all of the gifts, taking me down with him. He felt betrayed. Can you blame him?

But Santa Brings Smiles and Happiness

Is it an actual “lie” if the story brings smiles and happiness to children? It’s fun and the kids love this time of year. The excitement and anticipation of Santa’s arrival is priceless.   Partaking in the activities with them such as helping them write letters and leaving cookies and milk brings joy to us as parents. But while it may seem harmless when they’re young, is there a certain point or age when withholding the truth may create more anger or embarrassment for kids? Developing trust is important when parenting. Is deceiving our kids about Santa when they’re old enough to understand okay?  I’m not going to lie…it gets awkward as they get older.

So where do I stand? I fall somewhere in the middle. I love celebrating the spirit of Christmas, which includes Santa, but at same time I don’t want my boys upset or angry with me, embarrassed or lacking trust when they find out. What would I say if they question me so they understand? Naturally, I scoured the internet for helpful ideas and suggestions and I’m happy to share this great tip with you.

All in a Letter

Martha Brokenbrough is an author of both adult books as well as children’s books. When her daughter Lucy found out the truth, Martha wrote a letter to her in response, explaining delicately the Santa story. I came across her letter in a post on the New York Times website from 2009. I had contacted her and received permission to republish the letter below. It’s beautifully written and is a great way to communicate the truth behind Santa without destroying kids’ belief and hope of larger magical things💞 It’s also presented in a way that should keep trust intact.  I’ll be preparing my own version for when that day comes.

{Martha had also informed me that a new version of this will be coming out as a picture book next year from Scholastic. I can’t wait! You may check out her website here.}

Dear Lucy,

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?” I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say. The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa. I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the Christmas magic stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights. This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.


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