Immediately and as often as possible. It is okay that a fantasy construct is used as a symbol. There is no problem with the concept of personifying something that is larger than mere words. Mother Nature and Father Time have been with us for a while now.
As an atheist: You’ve explained to your child there is no God, and all of these people saying otherwise are spouting falsehoods they believe to be truth. So where is the logic of creating yet another false belief that you KNOW to be untrue?
As a Christian: You tell your kids that Santa and the Easter bunny are real, and they find out they are not. If the two symbols of the birth of Christ and the Resurrection of Christ are lies….that doesn’t bode well for Christ himself, does it?
As a Muslim: Presenting symbols from pagan religious rites isn’t even an option. So don’t do it. The pillars submission to Allah are not suggestions or recommendations.
As a parent: You want your child to be able to trust what you say. They need to be able to trust you implicitly. Start lying to them and that trust will be eroded. I never told my children the lies of tooth fairy and Santa Claus. I never gave them the Easter bunny story. We watched all the traditional programs, but they knew that Santa Claus, like Superman, was made up. This may be unrelated, but I’ve now had six kids, and I do not understand parents who speak of rebellious teenagers.
It is my considered belief that the reason I have not had to endure the rebellion is because my kids actually trust what i say. I do not have to order them to do things, I can merely suggest and explain the alternative outcomes, and they tend to choose what is best for them. They can do that, because they TRUST that Dad is ALWAYS going to tell them the truth.
I make this connection because I overheard a conversation between my youngest son and a friend of his in which he defended following my advice instead of his friends advice when he specifically remarked “Dad never fed me that Santa Claus bull****, that’s why I know I can believe him when he says other stuff.”
There is no measure of the value santa face to be placed upon the trust between you and your child. There is noting capable of replacing it when it is lost. There is no substitute for having at least ONE PERSON in the world who will always tell you the truth, no matter what.
If you want to do it in a more or less gentle fashion, start asking questions about Santa – until the child has no answer to them, and then ask if it’s even possible that such a figure existed.
For instance, having enough funds and man-power (or woman-power, or elf power) to create enough toys for all the kids is simply impossible, and if the child is old enough to understand this, the child is ready to move past Santa stage; if the child is too young, you will not get anywhere, and it’s best to work with the child’s limitations instead of pushing one’s own agenda.
If the child is old enough, you can also do some research of the origins of Xmas – which will bring you to the holiday which was celebrated in ancient times, and it was a gift exchange (following the harvest and obtaining some funds from selling the fruits of one’s labors), and it had nothing to do with Santa.
Younger kids, of course, would like to have some comfort in having a fairytale creature bringing presents – and it would be rather rude to take it away from them.
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