A friend of mine has one Christmas memory that she would rather erase from her mind. It's the Christmas morning that her ten-year-old daughter found the Wal-Mart receipt for all the gifts that she and her brother had just opened. Shocked and dismayed, the girl came completely unhinged, embarking on a crying jag that would last the entire day. "Do you know how stupid I am?" she wailed through her sobs. "You bought all the presents! You did it! All year I have been telling my friends that you would never lie to me! I'm the only one in my class who still believed, and I'm the one who is really stupid!"
The broken trust between this mom and daughter would take many months to repair. "I should have done things differently," my friend says. "I just made too big a deal out of wanting her to keep believing."
Whatever age your child is, the best approach for the Christmas season is to emphasize the birth of the Savior. Child and Family Specialist, author Richard Patterson, Jr. (connect online at confidentparenting.com), offers these tips for keeping the focus on Christ.
Pre-Schoolers: “Ignore Santa and major in Jesus,” advises Patterson. He advises parents to deal with the Santa factor only when necessary and then as little as possible. Instead, capitalize on a young child’s love for birthday parties. Have a birthday party for Jesus, and do it up right, with cake, streamers, balloons, the works! Let the children participate by planning the party games and food and inviting their friends.
Years ago, when our preschool-age children began asking us questions about Santa, we responded simply with, "Santa Claus is a game that some people like to play at Christmas." Then we would redirect their focus to the real story of Christ's birth.
K-3: While Patterson advises taking much the same approach with the early grades, he encourages parents to begin the "non-confrontational" approach of asking gentle questions to help children discover for themselves that Santa is pretend (and Jesus is real).
As our children got a little older, we were careful to remind them that while we knew Santa wasn't real, there were some parents who wanted their children to believe in him. Therefore, it was those parents' responsibility to one day tell their children the truth--not anyone else's! (This brought up a lot of interesting questions and conversations with our kids!)
4th-6th: As children head toward the middle school years, most will have begun to suspect (or been told by friends--but hopefully not by my kids LOL!) that Santa is pretend. They may enjoy continuing to pretend about Santa because it may still be fun (or because they think they will not receive any gifts if they don’t act like they “believe”). These older children can be encouraged to give of themselves this season, making true sacrifices of their time and talents:
- helping in soup kitchens and thrift stores
- helping an elderly neighbor decorate her home
- baking cookies or crafting gifts for the special people in his life
- making read-aloud book recordings for younger sibs or cousins to enjoy
- conducting a neighborhood penny drive for a help center or special church offering
- memorizing Luke 2:1-21 to share with the family on Christmas Day
Read all the posts in The Santa Series:
What Are You Going To Do With Santa Claus? (Part One)
Tempted To Use Santa As Your Disciplining Tool? (Part Two)
A Works Oriented Myth (Part Three)
Age-Appropriate Tips for Emphasizing Christ this Christmas (Part Four)
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