Parenting with Santa

Parenting with Santa July 20, 2015

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny & the Tooth Fairy

Like most of you, these three characters were part of my childhood. The evening before one of them was to visit my house, I would become overwhelmed with anticipation. I recall one Christmas trying very hard to catch Santa delivering toys to my grandparent’s home in southern Texas. I was really concerned that our lack of a chimney would hinder his ability to enter their home but my parents assured me that he could find a way.

Last week when I was organizing Christmas décor with a client, she began talking about her child’s belief in Santa and other make-believe characters and she shared that, “Kids need to learn early on that they can believe in things they can’t see.”

Really? Maybe I am missing something but I don’t know why kids need to learn to believe in things they can’t see. I want them to accept “invisible” realities like gravity, but that wont take a lot of convincing, after all, my kids figured that out when they learned to ride their bikes.

In contrast to my client, my husband and I made this agreement with our kids: “we will always tell you the truth.” Because we respect them as future independent human beings, because they rely on us to interpret the world for them right now, and because we don’t want them withholding the truth from us, we think this decision is what’s most fair to them. This means they know we are pretending when Santa (the Tooth Fairy, Easter bunny, etc.) visits, but get this–they still love it. They don’t have to think that a winged woman flies into their room at night to be just as excited to find money replacing a tooth under their pillow.

When my older brother figured out that Santa wasn’t real he was devastated. I can still recall hearing the sobs from his room while he continued to connect the dots that the Easter bunny and the Tooth Fairy were also fictional. Although I didn’t take this realization so hard, it did change how I experienced these holidays and events. Plus my parents no longer kept giving me money for my teeth. If I had been thinking, I would have kept stringing them along.

If you’re a parent, you may be thinking, “so you’re that parent whose kid destroyed Santa for my child!”

Hi, nice to meet you. It’s not my fault.

This is one of those instances where I will no longer say “sorry”. If you choose to set your child up with a story that can’t be supported out in the real world, then that’s on you, not me. I do feel for your circumstances because I assume you had the best of intentions in following our cultures Santa game every December, but little Johnny was gonna hear it from someone eventually.

Just like other lessons in life, when we choose the behavior we also chose the consequence. If convincing your kids that a man in a red suit delivers toys on Christmas leads to them being sad or devastated when they discover that they aren’t in fact real, then that’s the natural consequence of misrepresenting reality.

Before I sound like a jerk, let me say that it’s perfectly ok for you to raise your kids how you see fit. If these characters were important parts of your childhood that you want to impart on your kids, then I say go for it. All I ask is that you don’t get upset at my family for following our personal convictions.

Something my client passively asserted, really made me think: do kids need to believe in things they can’t see? If she was thinking of helping kids to be hopeful for the future or some other positive result, then sure! But I doubt that’s what she was referring to. I assume she meant that kids need to learn to believe in forces outside of themselves; forces that are not based on evidence and reason.

As a parent, I recognize that my kids are relying on me to interpret the world around them, and I don’t want them to start believing things without good reasons. Beyond magical or fairy tale non-sense, I want to impart to my kids that the things you accept as reality come through reason and evidence. In our home reality is known through reason, and reality is as awe inspiring and exciting as any fairytale I’ve heard.


(Want to learn more about Helen’s work with Kansas City Oasis and the Oasis Network? Check out and Community beyond religion)

Browse Our Archives