The most brilliant way to tell your kids there’s no Santa Claus

Tell your child that he’s now old enough to become Santa himself. No, seriously!

Chelsea Victoria | Stocksy United

Let’s say you decided, when your child was one or two, to tell him or her the Santa Claus story: The chimney, the North Pole, naughty and nice, the whole nine yards.

But now your kid is six or seven and the jig is very nearly up, and you may be feeling a little uneasy, like your child might be about to accuse you of, well, tricking him for these many years. What are you supposed to say? “I lied, sweetie, sorry, there’s no Santa“?

Luckily we were recently reminded of this perfect, graceful solution that’s been circulating online for years on how to break the news gently—and still preserve the spirit of Santa at the same time. (Thanks, Good Housekeeping, for bringing this oldie but goodie back.)

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First, take your child out for “coffee.” (Or hot cocoa.) This is a grown-up date in which you’re going to divulge some grown-up information—an induction ceremony of sorts. Next, tell him that he’s too old to receive presents from Santa anymore, but—here’s the kicker—he’s now old enough (and his heart has grown big enough) to become Santa.

Yes, you frame it as if the “role” of Santa is passed down to kids once they reach a certain age, and your child has now become old enough to bring joy to other people in a generous, totally anonymous, fashion. Have your child choose someone, like a neighbor, to “be Santa to.” Your kid should try to figure out what that neighbor or friend wants for Christmas and then get it for him, delivering the gift totally anonymously. And so on, for years to come.

Not only is it an elegant way out of the Santa bind, it introduces the idea of Santa as a generous secret gift-giver that any one of us can be. It also inculcates in them the values of noticing, of empathizing, and of helping. These are values that are easiest to practice at Christmas, when we’re already primed to be considering gifts and charity, but with enough guidance, our kids will internalize this sense of kindness and generosity, and it will become part of their spiritual DNA, so to speak.

The Santa story you told six or seven years ago? It wasn’t a deception. Even if you hadn’t totally thought it through in the beginning, here’s your graceful way out. And you might even end up with a more generous kid because of it.

 

Leigh Anderson
Leigh Anderson
Leigh Anderson is the author of "The Games Bible: The Rules, The Gear, The Strategies" (Workman, 2010) and has written for Vox, Newsweek.com, and Popular Science, among others.

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