Here are some ideas to help you keep Santa magical without lying:
- When children are young there is a blurred line between imagination and reality. You can talk about Santa the same way you talk about Disney characters. Encouraging the delightfulness of imaginary friends, talking snowmen, flying reindeer, etc. is developmentally appropriate as long as when the opportunity for reality arises that you take it. Once children begin to ask, you can tell them that some people think Santa is real and some people have fun pretending that he is real. Ask them if they think Santa is real. Let your child choose what they want to believe. This has the added advantage of teaching children to respect how other people look at the world. They can be compassionate when their playground friend insists that Santa is real because you have helped your child realize that everyone gets to choose what is real to them.
- Resist the temptation to use Santa or the Elf on the Shelf as a disciplinary tool. This is where fantasy, lies, and parenting skills become messy. If you have been relying on the illusion of an elf reporting back to Santa as a means of keeping your child’s behavior under control, it might mean that you are ready to give yourself the gift of a parenting class, MP3 subscription or coaching session. Holiday stress can send the entire family into emotional overload and it is vital that you stay connected to your wisdom as you parent through this busy season.
- It is important to feel awe and wonder in our hearts no matter how old we are. Expand your child’s Christmas delight with music and lights and star gazing. Waiting for Santa to bring presents doesn’t have to be the highlight of the season.
- Parents set the tone around gift giving. If your children have only learned the fun of receiving but not the joy of giving, it is time to engage them in creating something for a beloved pet or relative, helping with baking goodies or shopping for a thoughtful gift. Remember that your objective is to create a special experience where your child feels the pleasure of doing for others. This means that you set a realistic goal, keeping it simple, so you and your child have a positive memory.
- When children ask the hard questions you don’t always have to have rehearsed answers. First check in with your own beliefs and be as honest as you can in a way that is age appropriate for your little one. If your child asks, “Do YOU believe in Santa?” you can share some of your childhood memories around the subject…and now, as an adult you can giggle and wonder together if Santa is really real and if he will be visiting your house this year. Read stories, sing songs and enjoy the adventures of Santa the same way you would enjoy any fairy tale. Enjoying time together is a perfect way to stay connected to your child’s inner world. If you sense that your child is not ready to let go of the fantasy, indulge it gently. By tuning in, you will know when he/she is ready to take the conversation about Santa to the next level.
- My wish is that you never force your child to wait in a long line or sit on a mall Santa’s lap if your child does not want to do so. Your child deserves to be heard and if they make it known that they are not having fun, take your holiday photos in a way that feels good for everyone.
- Preparing children for receiving gifts that do not ‘wow’ them is a way to gently teach social skills. Practicing appreciation through a hug or a ‘thank you’ will help them know what to do in a potentially uncomfortable moment.
- Love yourself through this busy time of year. Many adults feel overwhelmed or sad in this season of merriment. Choose your holiday commitments wisely. Give yourself permission to have a quiet night at home if you or your child are on overload.
- Every study shows that children want, more than anything, to feel connected to the people they love…even more than a pile of presents! My sense is that we all desire to feel connected and loved.