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How to Explain Santa: The Sweetest Way To Tell Your Child Santa Isn’t Real

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It’s the most wonderful time of year! It’s also the time of year when little ones may begin to question just how Santa gets all of the presents to every boy and girl in the world and the “Is Santa real?” questions may be coming. If you’re wondering how to explain Santa to your kiddos and when and how to tell them the truth about Santa, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m Caitlin, mom to 4 little ones. Theo (9) is my oldest child, and I have identical twin girls, Josie and Margo (7). Beckham (3) is the final member of our family!

Today, I’m going to share with you our story of our oldest learning the truth about Santa, as well as lots and lots of tips for when and how to share the story of Santa with your own kids AND STILL CREATE THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS FOR YOUR CHILDREN.

I promise you, it can happen and you can do it.

You never know when it’s going to be your child’s last year believing in the existence of Santa Claus, and it’s a good idea to be ready to have the conversation.

How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.

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When to Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa

First of all, there is no single right way, right age, or right time to have the Santa talk with your children. There’s no magic age or average age that children are ready to stop believing.

Each child and family is so different and children in the same family can be ready at different ages!

While older siblings may figure out that there’s no real Santa at an early age, it might take their younger siblings a longer time to be ready for the truth.

I think that the best way to know whether or not they’re ready to learn the truth about Santa Claus is when they start asking questions. I know you don’t want to ruin the fun of Santa, but I promise that Christmas will still be fun!

The best way to know it’s time to tell your kid that Santa isn’t real is when they ask about Santa.

The story of how our oldest learned the truth about Santa…

“Hey Mommy, now that I’m on “Team Santa,” can I eat milk and cookies with you and Daddy on Christmas Eve?”

Phew. OK. Let’s back up to April of this year. Yessss, this story of our oldest no longer believing in Santa starts in APRIL.

It was 5 AM on Easter Sunday and my husband and I were discreetly running around our yard dispersing Easter eggs. Suddenly, my husband called my name and motioned towards Theo’s window, where his little head was peeking through the curtains, watching us.

Theo is our oldest son, and he was 9 at the time. He is typically a fairly early riser, but I thought that 5 am was early enough for us to hide the eggs without being caught. I was wrong.

This was a big deal.

As I made my way inside and up the stairs to his bedroom to chat, it was as if his entire childhood flashed before my eyes. I saw his fuzzy yellow hair in Christmas PJs, leaving out milk and cookies for Santa. I saw his sweet little eyes running into the living room shouting “SANTA CAME!” I saw his little polka dot bowtie on Easter Morning, hunting for Easter eggs.

“This is not about you. This is about him.” I whispered to myself outside his bedroom door.

How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.

Tip: There are certain situations with children where it’s better to listen and get their take on things before we jump in and ruin things with our big grown-up ideas. This is what I did in that situation. I simply went into his room and listened.

“You and Daddy are the ones who hide the eggs!” he said.

I have always said that when my children ask for the truth about Santa, I will give it to them. I knew that once he knew about the Easter Bunny, Santa wasn’t far behind. For a teeny, tiny, brief second, I debated telling him that we were simply helping out the Easter Bunny that year and that we’d received a text from him that he was running behind.

Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa When They Start to Ask Questions

The best way to know it’s time to tell your kid that Santa isn’t real is when they ask about Santa.

The first time your kiddos ask you about Santa, you should be honest with them. Now this might not be the case if they’re 3 or 4 and simply making conversation. My 3-year-old, Beckham, asked me this year if I believe in Santa. He’s not questioning or doubting, he’s simply repeating language he’s heard from Christmas movies.

But if they’re 7, 8, 9, or older, it’s time to tell them.

Once they’re asking and they have their doubts, it will be very unlikely that anything you say will change their mind.

Tip: It’s important to remember that it’s completely normal for kids to question how things work! So if your kiddo is asking questions such as “How does Santa get around the entire world?” and “How does he fit all of the presents in his sleigh?” it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready for the truth.

But if the questions become more consistent and your kiddo seems skeptical… it’s time.

Theo was NINE when he saw us hiding the Easter Eggs and he’s an extremely bright boy. It would have been too much of a lie for my comfort, AND I reminded myself that once there are questions about Santa… it’s time for them to know the truth. So I replied that yes, Mommy and Daddy were hiding the eggs.

Then I answered all of his questions but did not volunteer any extra information. And thennnn came the Santa questions.

Related –> How Our Family Does Santa: All of our Santa Traditions

What If They Don’t Ask Questions?

Now, what about if your kids don’t ask about it? Here’s my take. I strive to have a relationship with my kiddos where they can talk to me and come to me with anything.

I tell them over and over that I am their safe space, and so far it’s worked. They tell me things that I think many kids don’t talk to their parents about. At night when I’m tucking them in, I will frequently ask things such as: “Anything you want to chat about? Did anything outrageous, inappropriate, or weird happen that you want to tell me about? Are you worried or questioning anything?”

I am hopeful that once they start to question Santa, they will straight up ask me.

Since Theo learned the truth about Santa when he was 9, I will leave EXTRA opportunities for conversation and questions during the holiday season when my younger kids turn 9.

Josie and Margo, my twin girls, are 7, and Beckham, our youngest, is 3.

When the girls are 9, I will amp up my questions at bedtime: “Anything you want to talk about? Do you have any weird things you want to ask me about?”

Since I do this frequently anyway, they won’t be thrown off… but it will allow them to ask questions if they have them!

Related –> What We Actually Got Our Kids for Christmas: 2023

How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.

Don’t Rush the Conversation

I think it’s so important to not rush these big, important conversations. There have been times when my kids have asked me something and I say “That’s a great question and I want to talk to you about that.” I then tell them that I either a) want their father involved in the conversation, b) I want to give it my full attention so we’re going to wait until I can give them my undivided attention, or c) I need a little bit of time to put some careful thought into how to explain it to them.

I then follow up with WHEN we are going to chat because I don’t want them to think I’m blowing them off!

On Easter morning, I wasn’t able to chat with Theo for very long because I had to get back to Easter Bunny business. I tried to answer all of his questions but told him we would talk more later that night.

Related –> The Best Christmas Family Photo Ideas

How to Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa

A very popular and magical way to tell your kids the truth about Santa is to tell them that Santa is actually a big team of people who work together to create the magic of Christmas and invite them to join the Santa Team with you.

Team Santa

Santa is a character, kind of like Mickey or Spiderman or Chase from Paw Patrol. He’s not a real person, but the idea of Santa is a really fun and wonderful story that brings a lot of magic and joy to children at Christmas time. Younger kids usually believe that Santa Claus is a real person, and that’s OK! It’s all part of the fun. Mommies and Daddies love their kids so much fun and we have so much fun creating the magic of Santa.

Some families choose to tell their kids right from the beginning that Santa is a fictional character. Our family chose to celebrate the spirit of Santa Claus, but mommy and daddy agreed that the first time one of our kids asked us for the truth, we would tell them.

So the truth about Santa is that no, he’s not a man in a red suit. He doesn’t live at the North Pole. He doesn’t have a team of reindeer and elves that make toys. The Santa Team is made up of mommies and daddies, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, friends, and big brothers and sisters, all working together to create the magic.

Team Santa is not just about giving presents. It’s about giving the gift of wonder, delight, and anticipation. It’s showing kindness and integrity. It’s choosing to believe that the good things overpower the bad things. It’s choosing to believe in Christmas miracles!

Now that you know the truth about Santa, you’re invited to be part of the Santa team with us. You can help us create the magic for your younger siblings and keep the magic alive for your friends!

But don’t worry, we will still make sure to create the magic for YOU because even though you are on the Santa team, you are still a kid and you get to have surprises and joy on Christmas.

This is what we said to Theo. I didn’t print out a letter, but I had the note typed on my phone. If he was older and I hadn’t been caught red-handed, I might have printed out the letter for them to read.

Related –> Our Favorite Children’s Christmas Books

How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.

How to Make Christmas Magical Without Santa

I remember being so devastated when I learned that there was no Santa and it has been a HUGE goal of mine to make Christmas remain magical for my kiddos even once they know the truth. For me, a big part of that comes while they still believe in Santa.

Don’t Overdo the Santa in the Beginning

While we do celebrate Santa, we make sure to have many other parts of Christmas that are fun and magical. While we certainly amp up the Santa excitement on Christmas Eve, we have other daily Christmas traditions that bring us so much joy and keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

Santa also only brings each child in our family a few Christmas presents. My kids already know that most of their presents on Christmas are from their parents.

Related –> The Family Christmas Activities and Traditions that Make Our Christmas Extra Special

Make the Santa Team a Special Experience

Once a child in our family joins the Santa Team, they get to stay up late with us one night and help us wrap presents with hot chocolate with marshmallows and a special Christmas movie! It’s a wonderful way to get in the Christmas spirit even once you stop believing in Santa.

Even though Theo knows about Santa and is helping to wrap his siblings’ presents, I want him to have some surprises himself on Christmas morning, so I’m not showing him any of the Santa presents.

The evenings wrapping presents with him and my husband in front of the fire and the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree are SO magical! I know that if I am feeling the Christmas magic, he is feeling it as well.

How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.
How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.
How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.

How to Ensure Your Kids Don’t Tell Others About Santa

As soon as I learned the truth about Santa, I told my younger sister. I don’t know why and I immediately regretted it. But honestly, I think it is a big burden to put on young kids to have to hold on to this secret with the weight of ruining Christmas on their shoulders!

I think that I told her because I felt alone. I had nobody to experience Christmas with because my parents were busy doing their grownup Christmas thing, but I was no longer able to participate with my sister in the believing in Santa.

I think that parents everywhere can agree that Christmas as a parent is perhaps even more magical for the parents than for the child!

So, my theory is that if I can invite Theo to join in experiencing Christmas with us in this way; to be part of our Santa team and see the magic through the eyes of his younger siblings, INSTEAD OF putting a big burden on him to NOT TELL ANYBODY; I think that he will have no reason to tell them.

I told him that it is a privilege to be on the Santa Team, one that he is ready for, but his siblings are not. He also knows that once his sisters are on the Santa Team, they will each get their special night with us wrapping, which he will be excluded from.

I didn’t phrase this as a threat or a warning but I know that he would rather stay up with us than have to take turns with his sisters. So he has a big reason to NOT tell them: he will have to share his special time with us!

So far, Theo has taken his job VERY seriously.

When we went to visit Santa, I did NOT give him a big lecture about making it magical and believable for his siblings. I told him that I knew it might be weird. He might feel strange or sad and wish he could still believe, and that was OK!

How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.

I then told him that I was sooo excited to see the excitement on his younger siblings’ faces! I’m trying to lead by example and show him the ways that I am finding the Christmas magic, even though I don’t believe in Santa.

He was so into it and excited FOR his siblings, especially Beckham, his little brother!

He also is having such a good time as a member of Team Santa and is appreciating the quality time and bonding with us, that he wants to keep that for himself.

Whew. There you have it. How our oldest learned the truth about Santa and how we established the Santa Team in our house. I took something that I’d been dreading and turned it into something magical, and I’m really proud of the way our family handled it!

Merry Christmas!

How to tell your kids the truth about Santa: telling your kids Santa isn't real.

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