My Son is a Nonbeliever
Call it intuition. Call it a loss of innocence. Call it whatever you will, but I call my 7-year-old son's nonbelief of Santa Claus and other holiday characters as being a practical, reasonable young mind. In my son's eyes, if it doesn't make sense, it can't be true.
Most of his logistics come from my husband—a police officer who's approach to just about everything is to reason it to death. He's also very black and white with most issues—there's a right and a wrong and no gray area in between. My son has adopted this same mindset.
My son first expressed his doubt about the Tooth Fairy. He didn't understand the concept and questioned me to death. Not only did he question me, his voice was riddled with sarcasm. "So, let me get this straight. A little fairy flies in my window, takes my tooth, and leaves money under my pillow?! I don't think so."
What do you say to that? I felt like I was one of my husband's detainees being interrogated in the back room. I was waiting for my son to whip out a flashlight and shine it on my face—"Tell me the truth. I want to truth!" That didn't happen, of course, but I still had a hard time denying this child the truth when he asked me in such a mature, direct fashion.
Tips for Handling the "Santa Question"
If you're the parent of a child whose belief is beginning to waiver, there are some things you can do!
- Tell them the truth. We instill in our children the importance of honesty. Whether we're discussing a mythical holiday figure or the truth about something more serious, it's important to practice what you preach.
- Encourage your child to keep their beliefs to themselves. I have had extensive conversations with my son about Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and every other mythical character I can think of. I've validated his nonbelief but explained why he needs to keep those thoughts to himself. I don't want my child being the one that ruins the magic for another.
- Acknowledge their fears. One of my son's biggest complaints about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and leprechauns was that they're scary, strangers in our house. I get it. The concept for us parents is purely fun and magical, but the numerous photos of children in hysterics on either Santa or the Easter Bunny's lap are proof that to some, these characters are straight up frightening!
If Your Child Still Believes
I do envy those parents whose children still believe in the magic of Santa. Their excitement and wonder on Christmas morning when they discover presents under the tree is a priceless, irreplaceable moment.
I'd be lying if I didn't say I sometimes mourn my son's belief. I always loved wrapping one set of presents in "Santa" paper and the other ones in regular Christmas paper. Santa always brought the gifts that my son REALLY wanted - those special, expensive ones that mommy and daddy couldn't afford.
The last year my son believed but couldn't fall asleep out of pure terror that a stranger would be coming into our home on Christmas Eve, I came up with a plan. I told him that Santa knew he was afraid and that meant he would leave his presents outside the front door. And that's exactly what "he" did.
I placed all of the Santa presents on our front porch, along with his stocking. The presents from my husband and I stayed inside under the tree. At least for the time being, that was enough to convince my son Santa and the magic of Christmas was real.
If you sense your child's belief in Santa is beginning to waiver, try not to fight it. The day when your child stops believing is inevitable. Whether they're 7 or 12, that day will come.
When you find yourself getting upset, angry, frustrated, or disappointed that your child no longer believes in the magic of Christmas, take a moment to look inside yourself. Is it really your child that is devastated or is it you? Keeping the dream alive might be more for you than for your child.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Nicole K on January 10, 2019:
Thank you for this insightful hub! My oldest son is 5 years old, and I've debated about whether to tell him Santa is pretend or not. This past Christmas, I did take him and his brother to go sit on Santa's lap. When we were leaving, he asked me, "Was that the same Santa we saw back by our old apartment, where we used to live?" I didn't know what to say, so I asked him, "What do you think?" He said, "I think so." But I could tell that he was skeptical. On Christmas morning, I didn't wrap any presents any special way or say there were any gifts there "from Santa", and he and his brother didn't even notice. I think as long as it is not a big deal to him, I will probably just keep it that way. If he asks, I think I'll just tell him that it's fun to celebrate the real St. Nicholas, who was a man who loved God and liked giving gifts to children and other undeserving people. It is such a conundrum though, because I remember believing in Santa as a little girl and it did make Christmas feel more "magical". So I go back and forth.