How to Prepare for the Santa Moment of Truth
We dread it, but every parent knows that the day will eventually come when their child learns that there is no Santa. This discovery brings a double dose of shock to the little one. First, he has to come to terms with the fact that the jolly, bearded fellow who magically and reliably delivered them on Christmas morning, isn't real.
And second, when a child finds out about Santa, he figures out that the grownups have been, well, lying through their teeth. The very people who scold little ones to "always tell the truth" have been ignoring their own policy! This realization can create no end of confusion on the part of children who have been faithfully leaning on their parents to clarify the rules about right and wrong -- only to find out that mommy and daddy have been breaking them.
As hard as we may try to preserve our child's innocence, we all have to inevitably deal with the mournful moment when our youngster figures out -- or is told by an older sibling or clever classmate -- the real deal about Santa. Here's my advice:
• Don't tell your child that he shouldn't be upset. He may be mad, confused, hurt or sad. Let him express himself, without trying to talk him out of his anger or tears.
• When he's calmed down, tell him the story of St. Nicholas, and his great love for children. You can tell him that parents carry on St. Nick's "work" and spirit by sharing gifts and surprises.
• Maintain traditions, like leaving cookies and milk for Santa, unless your child strongly objects. Children with younger siblings often take secret pleasure in collaborating with mommy and daddy to maintain Santa rituals for their little brothers and sisters, joining with their parents to keep the legend of Santa alive.
Childhood is terribly brief; it's painful when bits and pieces of our child's innocence fall away, which happens when he finds out who really put those presents under the tree.
But given the fact that every child who once believed in Santa Claus does make peace with the truth, don't let the moment of discovery steal your Christmas joy. By reminding your children that the real meaning of Santa lives in our hearts when we give to others, they can hold on to the sweetness of Christmas, even after finding out that -- perhaps only technically speaking -- Mommy and Daddy do the work for jolly, old St. Nick.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.