What is the proper thing to do when a child directly asks you – is Santa real? I have a two-fold response. One is don’t lie. If you believe or if you don’t, you have to honor yourself. But there is no need to tell small children more than they need to know and no good in telling them information that they can’t process or handle. Tell the truth – but when it comes to Santa, what is the truth for toddlers and small children? Here are some constructive things to say:
I’ve sometimes wondered that too! He’s a lot of fun, isn’t he? I like believing in Santa. (This switches the focus to the fun of believing)
No one I know has ever seen the real Santa, but he’s existed for hundreds of years. (This is a historical argument that older children can appreciate)
I think there could be a real Santa somewhere. Lots of people want to be like Santa and dress up like him. He has a lot of helpers. So it’s hard to tell which one is the real Santa. Do you want to be one of Santa’s helpers? (This paves the way for you to talk about gifting others)
Some people believe Santa Claus is real and some people don’t. (Fact). Often that answer is enough. You don’t need to go further – if your child doesn’t ask you what you personally believe, you’re off the hook.
But if your child directly asks you – “Do YOU believe in Santa?”, then you have to have an answer ready. Think about what you want to say. Have your answer ready, since sooner or later it could come.
Safe ones include:
I believe that Santa’s spirit of loving-kindness and joy exists and helps people to be nice to each other.
I got presents from Santa when I was little, so I always figured he was real.
I think that Santa is real, but he may not be real like you and me. (Here you can explore characters like Mickey Mouse, fairies or things that exist that are hard to prove)
I believe in Santa (if you do, in some way).
Usually it is wiser to let children figure out whether Santa is real or not on their own. Santa is a great figure to encourage problem-solving and creative thinking. Don’t deny your child the opportunity to gain these mental skills. By the time they ask, they probably have already come up with the notion that he may not be a real elf from the North Pole. All around the world in many cultures children learn to enjoy Santa without the pressure of believing he is real. They are never taught that he is – but they are encouraged to have fun with this make-believe character that has a joyful spirit that everyone can share. Having fun is good for the soul.
If you want to learn more about how to explain Santa to children, read Re-Imagine Santa or other books here: https://santalove.org/?page_id=547