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My youngest daughter is now nine years old. She has always been very big into believing in magical things. It's probably my fault because I love to see kids using their imagination and wonder. My kids wrote letters to Santa every Christmas, and Santa always left a letter with their presents, in response. Her teddies are real and all have names. She takes them everywhere on trips, in the car and stuff. She even takes in turns, so they all get to go out. Likewise, she has a great fondness for Christmas and even keeps an elf in his own little bed at the side of hers because she thinks she's looking after him for Santa (again, my fault! (Partly my wife's fault, too, actually)).

I'm really struggling with this. My wife wants to tell her, because she's afraid her friends may laugh at her in school because of it, but I feel like it would be ripping the last glistening sparks of innocence from her. I feel like what's coming is... "Santa isn't real, so Freddy (the elf) is not really my friend I'm looking after, so why do I talk to and play with my teddies?" What's left for her, then? It really upsets me because I know how much it means to her.

I don't mind her learning by herself, because it shows it's time. And I won't encourage it anymore like I used to. Then I think maybe she knows (from social media, friends etc) but just plays on it for fun, maybe. She's quite smart. She asks intelligent questions and even tells me I'm wrong sometimes, and I check, and she's right. But she's never asked if Santa is real.

It really gets me because it's like the end of her childhood. But she's only just turned nine and is still very much attached to her private fantasy world.

So what's best for her mental development? Is there anything wrong with just letting it play out?

(I'd love to have some psychological insight into the pros and cons of telling her, but just other parent's experiences would be great, too)

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    As you suspect, your daughter may have already caught on. I knew by about seven that Santa was a put-on, but I pretended to believe for years because I sensed that mom would be let down if I let on. Nov 23, 2022 at 19:04
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    I cannot judge this accurately, but I want to prod you for an answer that is as objective as possible: how much of your assumption that your daughter is holding on to her private fantasy world do you reckon could be projection on your part? It is clear from your question that you're apprehensive of this, e.g. "it's like the end of her childhood". I'm not asking this to devalue your question, but rather to make sure that the answer you get applies to the reality you're faced with; and I'm honestly wondering if you have maybe underestimated your own opinion biasing your observation.
    – Flater
    Dec 13, 2022 at 9:26
  • @Flater Hi! Well, that's tough to say, but I try to be as objective as possible. I literally just came downstairs after having to help my daughter introduce some new teddies from the school fête to the rest of her teddies (including her two elves), so they are comfortable in their new home (all her own ideas). It's something she always does with new teddies and likes me to be there because it's like a big moment. She won the huge teddy in the raffle, too. She was so visibly over-the-moon that her teacher noticed and asked to take a photo for the school website. All pretty objective, I'd say.
    – theDADDY
    Dec 14, 2022 at 17:26
  • At age 8 I knew there was no Santa but my friend didn't. I told him shortly after one Christmas. "But there was a present on the table." "Your parents put it there." "No they didn't. I asked them. Would my parents LIE to me?" I recommend not having her find out that way! Jan 1, 2023 at 6:34
  • @LukeSawczak Thanks for the viewpoint. I'll keep it in mind.
    – theDADDY
    Jan 1, 2023 at 13:24

2 Answers 2

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My son is eight and I need to remind people not to talk too honestly about Christmas when he is around. Because most people assume him to know that Santa is not real. But he believes and I would never bluntly tell him.

For us it is a step by step thing. The people in Santa costumes are actors. This was the first thing he noticed. I agreed, but also I asked him why he thinks they are. He answered "Because the real Santa is busy with preparing presents".

Next thing was the presents for the grandparents. Why do we gift them, if Santa could? And we thought about the kind of presents we gift (personal things, paintings of him, photos of us) and Santa could not do them, because they have more worth for grandparents if done by us. And we will not bother Santa to deliver our paintings.

I also think my boy is smart and knows that there is a lot made by the parents about presents and so on. But I myself prize imagination and so I assume he does. And though the parents lay the presents under the tree, this by itself does not prove Santa is not real!

We discuss a lot about "believing" these days. That it is about "not able to know", because one can not prove Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy or even any God to be unreal, nor to be real.

I do not know how to prevent my son from other children cruelly laughing about him. If he didn't believe in Santa any more, these children would find another reason to laugh. But I want my son to know that these children lost something valuable by "not believing anymore".

I like the movie "Rise of the Guardians" for this connection. There Santa, Easter Bunny, Sandman and others protect the children against the black man (causes bad dreams and fear). And when the children stop believing, the guardians lose their power. It is a good picture for me: that Santa brings light and luck, but you need to believe.

Maybe you want to have also a look at my answer to the question "How to let my children believe in Santa without lying?"

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Do reindeer and children know something that we don't? Pediatric inpatients' belief in Santa Claus. Claude Cyr

A study of children who were not hospital inpatients showed that they generally discover the truth on their own at the age of 7 years. Children reported predominantly positive reactions on learning the truth: 2 of 3 said that they felt a sense of pride in figuring out the truth about Santa. Half of them thought that even though Santa was not real, they liked the idea of Santa. Parents, however, described themselves as predominantly sad in reaction to their child's discovery.2 However, it is not until the middle childhood period (from 7 to 12 years) that children are able to think about Santa Claus simultaneously in 2 different ways: as a pleasing idea that helps them enjoy Christmas and as someone who is not real.

What’s in your stocking?

Santa is linked to kindness, although children might not like waiting in line to see him at the mall. Children often stop believing in Santa around age 7 and this bothers parents more than children. Just because some children stop believing in Santa does not mean he does not exist: some people do not believe in evidence-based medicine, yet here we are.

The child’s pantheon: Children’s hierarchical belief structure in real and non-real figures

In addition to testimony, content, and source information, we must pay more attention to the specific role that cultural rituals play in widespread belief of culture-bound supernatural figures.


The first article shows that your child will likely transition into a belief that Santa is both a pleasing idea that helps them enjoy Christmas and as someone who is not real.

Altogether, these articles suggest that you, as the adult, don't need to intervene with your child's beliefs about Santa, your child will figure it out, probably before they're 13yo, and as your question shows, you will feel some distress about this transition.

Additionally, regardless of the age your child figures it out, the majority of children continue to support teaching other/their own children to believe in Santa, which could be viewed as a cultural structure of belief in supernatural figures.

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