Friday, December 11, 2009

What to tell kids about Santa

No, not the big question. I'm guessing that many readers of this blog had their 5-year-olds come to them with good arguments about the top land-speed of reindeer, their dense bones which would preclude flight, the exact number of houses in North America--let alone in the rest of the world where, curiously, many cultures have a different conception of a night-time gift giver. Or, if your kid has a strong inclination toward fairness, she noted that while some of her friends got huge gifts from Santa, her stocking inclined mostly toward gum and toothbrushes (I don't think my parents wanted Santa taking credit for the good stuff!).

Since my family was firmly in the gum-and-toothbrushes category, any Santa belief ended quite early. In second grade, my class was supposed to write letters to Santa, which would then be answered. I wrote a letter saying this was a stupid exercise since he didn't exist. The letter I got back said I sounded like a smart little girl. I'm not sure if that was a good thing.

Anyway, the question is what to tell kids to say to other kids about Santa. While gifted kids can figure things out quickly, they're not always that good at social niceties, or see the point of white lies. It's wrong to lie to people, right? So if you've got a little Santa truther, how do talk him through this social navigation, particularly if all his friends at school or church are still at the age where it's fun to believe? (There's a broader take on the Santa issue, from the child development perspective, talked about in this article here). I'd love to hear how you all handled this issue.

8 comments:

JaneC Duquette said...

My son, when he was 3, stood in line with his brother to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what he wanted for Christmas. When it was his turn he sat, turned and looked Santa in the eye and asked "Do you know that Santa Claus is just a myth? His 5 year old brother who would tell anyone what gifts to get him, just about fell on the floor laughing. We have spent more than a little time since then researching Saint Nicholas. This is not something we talk about with some other adults or even kids.

Jeremy said...

We dealt with it early too. We waited until the first time we overheard our daughter explaining the non-existence of Santa, then had a good discussion about how to interact with people who don't believe the same things you do...the importance of respecting other perspectives, being honest about what you believe, keeping quiet if necessary, and the power and importance of good stories (even when they're not true).

The Santa issue was relatively easy, but we've found the same principles applying to the issue of religion as well. Good tools to give a little skeptic as they bump up against the world...

Kevin said...

We never started the Santa myth in our house (nor most of the other religious or pseudo-religious customs so common in the US).

Luckily our son is not into belittling other people's beliefs (even if he regards them as silly), so we have not had to train him specifically in being nice to true believers.

J. said...

We're Jewish! Not an issue in our household. :)

It's the tooth fairy I wrestled over. She figured it out real fast when the tooth fairy kept forgetting to arrive.

Mary VK said...

Laura, your dad and I are laughing out loud thinking about Santa's emphasis on dental hygiene and your second grade teacher's dealing with your outing Santa. Can't wait to see how you are going to handle these issues with your little ones!

Anonymous said...

Whether that's really your mom posting a comment or not - it made me smile thinking how parents deal with their kid's editorials!

vaughnsmum said...

Not quite at that point but how about explaining Jesus, the Nativity, or your own personal beliefs about the season?

Anonymous said...

Actually, to the poster above who said that it's not an issue in their house because they are Jewish, I think you must have misunderstood the question. Laura is asking how to coach children who don't believe in Santa (or the Tooth Fairy, or whatever) how to politely not ruin the fun for those that currently believe. Many children don't believe in these things whether it is because it isn't part of their family tradition, or they overheard something, or they figured it out on their own. But it is important we teach our children to be graceful in handling these situations.