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I am not asking if it is okay to perpetuate the Santa Myth here. There is another question about that here. I am also not asking when this is likely to happen. That is answered here

I am asking how to help a child that has believed in Santa to move through the moment of realization when Santa suddenly is no longer real whether they figured it out for themselves or because some other child let the cat out of the bag is irrelevent.

The question is really two-fold because often, when they find out, they share their knowledge with their "friends" and pass the grief on as well.

So,

How do you help them move through the grief and enjoy the holiday anyway?

and

How do you help make sure your kid isn't the one letting the cat out of the bag for everyone else?

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3 Answers 3

I actually believe he does exist in a way similar to that depicted in the article, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus." So, when my daughter asked about it at five I said, "what do you think" she said, "I think he is real." Two weeks ago when she asked at six and said, "I don't know Mom" I responded by telling her the story of St. Nicholas and fessing up to the fact that Mommy and Daddy fill her stocking. We also watched the movie, "yes Virginia" and talked about the fact that St. Nick represents the spirit of the season - selfless giving and that in that he exists, just not as a sleigh-driving, elf enslaving fat man at the top of the world.

This article will tell you about the origin of St. Nicholas including the story I told Alice, he gave gold to young girls in need of a dowry for marriage so they could be matched well and he did it in secret. He has since been known as "The Children's Saint." The article gives a lot more detail about his life and the miracle of manna at his grave for which he was named a saint.

This article will allow you to read the original text written as an editorial in the New York Sun in answer to an eight year old's question about whether Santa was indeed Real or Not. If you aren't familiar, the answer includes this sentiment:

"Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished."

When my parents answered me in this way, I never felt lied to, just loved. It seems my own daughter has responded the same way. A minor sense of disappointment at the loss of the magic and a sense of responsibility for keeping the magic alive for others who haven't figured things out yet along with a hope in the spirit of the season and an appreciation for anonymous giving for the joy and benefit of others.

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Creating Santa is about making magic. When kids finally figure out there is no Santa, you can explain that they are right, Mum and Dad were just making magic for them, and now that they have figured it out, they get to be like the grown-ups and help make magic for younger children. While saddened by the realization that there is no Santa, they will be relieved to realize they still get presents, and they will enjoy being part of the magic game.

The feeling kids experience here is more akin to disappointment than actual grief. This is a small introduction into how to process your thinking when something turns out to be not what you thought it was. It is a right of passage for many children the world over. In its own different way, it as as rich an experience as the magic of Santa was before it.

One thing to note - once they figure out Santa, all the other magic beings fall like dominoes - tooth fairy, Easter Bunny...

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1  
. . . Jesus . . . –  Binary Worrier Dec 11 '13 at 16:05
    
I have to say, I disagree with the statement, "The feeling kids experience here is more akin to disappointment." I think it depends on the kid. That is true for some, but there are also kids that really feel a sense of deep loss. For example, my niece cried for days and it totally ruined her Christmas - to her, Santa had just died. –  balanced mama Dec 12 '13 at 0:06

For us, we explain that Santa is all of us. That Santa is in fact still real, but not as a tangible human, more as an emotion or a motivation in us all. So parents fill the stockings - but not exclusively, since I fill my mother's stocking and she adds things to the ones I helped to fill. And we send "stocking extras" in parcels to be added to stockings when they're being filled.

We insisted from Day 1 that no wrapped or labeled present could be "from Santa". Everything wrapped was from someone. Santa never happens to have Nana's or Grampa's handwriting, or to use the same paper as Auntie Jane. Some large things (toboggans and other hard to wrap) were just put, unwrapped, near stockings. This reduced the level of deception and out and out lying that the kids would need to reconcile later.

In effect, we are all Santa's helpers, and if you're old enough to be in on it, you're a Santa's helper too - and that includes using the name Santa to refer to the collective generosity of a family and a community, using terminology small people can understand. Worked for us, anyway.

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