For many children in the UK, the very idea of Santa Claus underpins the magic of Christmas and is the main reason it's often their favourite holiday of the year. But the time will eventually come when, as parents, we have to break the news that Santa Claus does not exist. Timing can be crucial to avoid heartbreak, so just when is the right time to burst the bubble?
One thing that's certain is that the message should come from parents or close family and not a third party. Avoid the scenario where your children return home from school heartbroken after being told that Santa isn’t real by their teacher - one supply teacher even lost her job in 2008 after telling a class of kids that Santa was a myth. The message should be calmly and clearly communicated to your child by you, when you judge the time to be right.
Some would argue that children should be told straight away that Santa doesn’t exist, before the myth can become ingrained. Others believe that this may not be the best course of action. The myth of Santa Claus encourages good behaviour in return for a mystical delivery of toys, whilst also encouraging a sense of community and tradition amongst young children, increasing their awareness of a long-held tradition and teaching them that Christmas gifts don’t come without cooperation on their part.
Whilst telling children too early is certainly a risky strategy, the same can be said about leaving it too late. The older a Santa-believer gets, the higher the risk that they will be ridiculed by other children who know better, or find out in uncomfortable and upsetting circumstances. Finding the balance is crucial, and keeping up to speed with how other parents at your child’s school are dealing with the issue is a great way to find the right time.
It’s important to remember that children aren’t ignorant to their surroundings, and, more often than not, a child will discover the truth for themselves, without the need for a frank conversation. They too will see adverts encouraging parents to buy Christmas gifts or overhear conversations about presents bought for other people, and may slowly come to the conclusion that Santa Claus is a fun idea, but that even without him, presents will still emerge.
If you feel that telling children yourself is the way forward, then finding the right tone is important, as is making sure they fully understand before finishing the conversation. Taking a historical approach and explaining the story of Saint Nicholas is one time-tested method, whilst other parents prefer to let religious teachings and thoughts take over from Santa Claus, with a focus on the nativity and the importance of celebrating the birth of Christ. However you choose to break the news, remember that the hurt of learning the truth will quickly be forgotten come Christmas morning.
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