How to Respond When Your Child Asks About Santa

At some point your child will question whether or not Santa is real.
If your tween is asking about Santa, it's probably because she already suspects the truth. Photo: Julia Freeman-Woolpert,

Question: My child recently asked, "Is Santa real?" How should I answer? What should I say?

Answer: It can be hard for parents to accept that their children are growing up and letting go of childhood traditions and notions. For many parents, it's downright painful to think that their child has grown out of the Santa years and all the fun that's associated with the belief of Santa and his little elves.

 By the time a child becomes a tween, he or she probably no longer believes in Santa Claus. This is a developmentally appropriate action as your child become more self-aware and aware of his or her surroundings. But some tweens still hold on to their childhood beliefs for as long as they possibly can. The truth is if your child is asking questions such as, "Is Santa real?" he or she probably already knows the truth and is just looking for validation from you. If your child has asked you about Santa, below are a few tips to consider before you answer your tween. 

Is Santa Real? It's All About Perspective

If you think your child has it all figured out, it's a good idea to be truthful with him or her. When your tween asks, "Is Santa real?" you could explain that Saint Nicholas was, in fact, a real person from long ago. He was known for leaving presents for the children in his village, and for caring for the poor and unfortunate.

The legend grew over time, becoming the story we all know today. Be sure you include your family's beliefs and values in the conversation, reinforcing the fact that Santa exists in the hearts and souls of all people who are kind and generous. 

Even adults understand that there is some magic to the legend of Santa Clause and that magic can't always be explained.

How many sour hearts have been turned sweet by the inspiration of The Jolly Old Elf? Is that not magic? Is it not real? How has his legend managed to survive from generation to generation? And for generations to come? Remind your tween that reality is often about perspective and faith. If your child understands that belief and faith are choices we all make, he or she may choose to believe in something even greater and enduring. Share your thoughts on what you believe and why, and give your tween time to figure out his or her own beliefs.

It might also be time to review some of your family's annual Christmas traditions. Instead of writing a letter to Santa every year, your tween could become a Secret Santa for a younger sibling or neighborhood child. Or, he or she could bake cookies or bread for elderly neighbors. Ask your tween how he or she might like to "take over" for Santa and spread the cheer and generosity that he or she has always known. 

Your daughter or son may no longer look for reindeer on Christmas Eve, but your tween might be ready to embrace the spirit of Santa Clause in a different way and spread the joy of giving in his or her own special way. Helping do so guarantees that in your child's heart, Santa will live forever, and is, in fact, very real.

So, when your tween asks, "Is Santa real?" you can answer, "Yes, he is. But not in the way you think. Here's what I mean..."