How to Respond When Your Child Asks About Santa

Young boy visiting with Santa

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

As they grow and begin to understand the world better, kids begin to ask tough questions. Besides "where do babies come from," many parents dread the day one of their kids asks, "Is Santa real?" It will likely catch you by surprise and there are a few ways you can handle it.

Age Matters When Deciding What to Tell Kids About Santa

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 in Santa and his little elves.

It can happen at any age and may come up because of a conversation with other kids. Your 6- or 7-year-old may have overheard something at school and want reassurance that Santa will indeed show up at Christmas. It may be good to reinforce the story of Santa, even showing younger children images or videos of "live" Santas at parades on television.

An 8- or 9-year-old may really be asking if it's still okay for them to pretend that there is a Santa so they don't miss out on anything. At this age, you'll want to use your judgment as to their true intent with the question. Some kids are ready for the truth and others are not. If needed, ask a few probing questions like, "Why do you ask?" before deciding how to answer.

By the time they reach 10 or 11, your tween probably no longer believes in Santa Claus. This is developmentally appropriate timing. It is around these years that children become more self-aware. They also begin to get a pretty good grip on reality. But some tweens hold onto their childhood beliefs for as long as they possibly can.

The truth is that if your child is asking questions such as, "Is Santa real?" he probably already knows the truth or has an idea of it. He may just be looking for validation from you.

When to Be Truthful

If you think your child has it all figured out, it's a good idea to be truthful. For instance, 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.

This is a good time to instill your family's beliefs and values by bringing them up in the conversation. You might do this by reinforcing the idea that the spirit of Santa represents what is in the hearts of all people who are kind and generous.

Even adults understand that there is some "magic" to the legend of Santa Claus and that it 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?

You can also remind children that reality is often about perspective and faith. If your child understands that belief and faith are choices we all make, he may choose to believe in something even greater and enduring. Share your thoughts on what you believe and why, and then give him time to figure out his own beliefs.

Consider Rethinking Your Christmas Traditions

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

While kids may no longer look for reindeer on Christmas Eve, your tween might be ready to embrace the spirit of Santa Claus and spread the joy of giving in her own special way. Helping do so guarantees that in your child's heart, Santa will live forever and that he is, in fact, very real.

A Word From Verywell

This single question can be a challenge for any parent, and it will happen eventually. Your best answer may be, "Yes, he is. But not in the way you think. Here's what I mean..." It's an excellent learning experience in caring and generosity that children of any age will remember.

Was this page helpful?