I am sure this will get a series of downvotes and possibly a report of some crazy woman who hates Christmas, but here is my unpopular opinion.
As soon as they understand words. My children grew up always knowing that Santa was a part of the Christmas story, but not a real living person that brought presents.
I worked hard for my children, we did not have much and what we did have was not going to get credited to some magical being. In addition to the fact that believing in Santa, and only getting a few modest gifts, while other children were spoiled beyond reason made it seem as if somehow my children were not good enough for Santa to treat the same.
They were not scared for life. They knew the only rule about Santa was to let other children believe as they chose and never, ever spoil it for someone else.
What telling them the truth did was much more important than a few years of believing in a myth. It taught them they could trust me. It taught them that I would not make up stories to amuse them, and then they would have to unlearn reality because I was not honest. If I told them something was true, mattered, was real, they knew it was. They never had to question their world, their life. They also felt very mature and educated, being in advance of their peers in their knowledge of the real world.
Sure, we all think it is fun and games, but I hold to the opinion that faithful in the least is faithful in most. If your children have to question reality because you started their life out with untruths, that is not a good way to begin a relationship, in my mind.
Start with the truth to begin with and it’s never an issue.
Santa Claus has an interesting foundation in history and is a great example of how a story can permeate culture to become some larger, something legendary even. Teaching about Santa Claus is a great opportunity to educate your kids about real history and walk them through the story as it changes from one culture to another and over time. This kind of perspective of change can do a lot to help kids see the world from a larger point of view than their own, especially if it’s done yearly and grows with their ability to understand.
That being said, we’ve always been honest about there not being a single ‘Santa Claus’ but rather a fun way to share love for others and pretend with friends. Our kids don’t believe us. HA. Also, I try to do the above but it can be challenging with younger kids and we stress santa liberty the importance of pretending with our friends that may not believe what we believe (another greater early lesson in tolerance/acceptance/whatever of other people).
The best way is: Find a child, the same age as yours, who already knows about Santa. And let the two talk it out. Just stay near and observe, in case it causes a conflict. When I last time played Santa in front of 25 children, one of the little girls just went in front and declared with great determination:
I am thankfull to F…..s (my name) for the nice presents, but I have no idea why he is dressed up so funny.
And be carefull when you tell your child. That can backfire: One of my friends told his 4 years old son, when he was geting ready for preschool, that Santa is a historical person, but not alive anymore, thats why people act as Santa for the smaller children. But you re a big boy now and soon going to school…….
The boy did not let him continue and told him. I always knew you are a lier. The tooth fairy was a lie, the Easter bunny rabbit was a lie, too much TV is a lie, this story that I have to go to school for my own good is a lie, I will never go to school, and that you are my father is also a lie, my father would never be a lier (The bad thing was: he realy was not the physical father, and the child did not know. But the father made such a shocked face, that the child found this also confirmed.) The child was never the same and became very rebelious, impossible to be handled by parents, teachers and caretakers.
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