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One of the most touchy subjects for parents, and a clear sign your child is rapidly growing up right in front of your eyes, is the “Is Santa Real?” question.

Often stemming from a talk on the playground or in the classroom, if you’ve made Santa a key figure in your holiday experience, the concept of revealing that little white lie – and bursting the bubble – can be difficult.

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Is Santa Real?

So when that all-important question arises, what exactly do you tell your little one to reassure them that Christmas is still special without leaving them even more stumped and confused in the process?

Well, it all depends. Some parents even choose not the pass on the mystical figure of Santa Claus to their children because they don’t want to show themselves as liars. But for many families, Santa is far more than just a lie told to keep kids in line (though Elf on the Shelf can be a useful tool for good behavior). It’s something magical and exciting and a reason to look forward to that special day once a year.

But, once your child is old enough to ask those important questions, is that the time to sweep their queries under the carpet, or is it time to come clean? Parents have faced this question since the story of Santa first began, and for many, the choices fall between:

  • Avoiding the question of keeping the magic alive that bit longer
  • Answering honestly and potentially shattering your child’s vision of the festive season
  • Continuing along with the lie until their friends at school or a well-meaning relative tell them otherwise

None of those options sound particularly excellent. But New York Times writer Martha Brockenbough has cleverly devised an alternative to disappointment or additional lies, offering parents a way to provide their children with a clear answer without sacrificing their beliefs or leaving them disappointed.

The basis of this method is not that parents are Santa but that the concept and idea of Santa continue to live on. And his ideals are what parents represent by providing their children with gifts on his behalf. While Santa himself isn’t someone that can be seen or touched, his work is powerful, and parents work with him to provide children with the same experience they received when they were kids, continuing his spirit and offering belief for their children.

Not only do parents work out of love with Santa to offer their children the best Christmas possible, but your children will also do the same for their offspring – proving that the spirit of Santa continues to this day, longer than all our lifetimes. So, whatever age your child realizes mom, dad, or guardian is filling a stocking and placing presents under the tree, that doesn’t mean Santa doesn’t exist. It simply means it all works a little differently than they thought.

A viable alternative to other options, Brockenbough’s Santa letter has inspired plenty of parents to offer peace of mind and answer those difficult questions. Whether or not your children accept this version of events is another matter entirely, especially with the influence of other children around them in various stages of belief and understanding.

Another option for parents looking to soften the blow without spoiling the magic is spinning the Santa concept on its head. Once your child is old enough to understand that Santa isn’t quite as magical as they first believed, they can be enlisted to become their own ‘Santa’. By explaining that now they are old enough, they can provide that magic for younger children and siblings, you can ensure that the magic of the Holidays isn’t simply stripped away; they’re transformed into something else. Your child is responsible for making other children happy, an important role that they’re sure to love.

This method can be further enhanced by providing your child with a Santa-related task, such as finding somebody’s Christmas list to purchase an item and wrapping it all ready for Christmas day. Not only does this promote generosity, but it offers your child a chance to connect with the season in a completely new way; and encourages them to keep the spirit of Santa Claus alive for younger relatives, too.

How did you reveal the truth about Santa to your little ones?

Perhaps you’re not at that stage yet, but the questions are just beginning. Remember that whatever you choose to break the news, opting for something your child can remain invested in is the ideal way to keep that festive spirit alive.