Therapist and Parents Guide a Thoughtful Conversation about Santa Claus with Children


As the festive season approaches, parents face the annual dilemma of how to broach the subject of Santa Claus with their children. In a recent interview, therapist and mother, Jessica VanderWier, sheds light on the diverse approaches families can take to have a conversation about Santa Claus, emphasizing the importance of creating Christmas traditions rooted in values and positive experiences.

Child-Led Conversation about Santa Claus

VanderWier encourages a child-led approach to discussing Santa, allowing kids to imagine and choose their version of the jolly old man. Drawing from personal Christmas magic, she suggests that parents tune into their own childhood experiences to shape unique and meaningful traditions that foster closeness within the family.

Acknowledging that children typically become “Santa aware” around ages 3 to 4, VanderWier shares her own approach with her three daughters, aged 6, 3, and 18 months. Rather than declaring Santa as definitively real or not, she introduces him as a person to imagine, bringing presents into their home. This approach respects the developmental stages of children’s understanding.

For families who choose to embrace the magic of Santa, VanderWier emphasizes the importance of using the story to foster closeness and togetherness. By focusing on creating magical moments together, such as preparing milk and cookies for Santa or listening for reindeer on the rooftop, families can build cherished memories centered around the spirit of Christmas.

Universal “Don’ts” for Conversation about Santa Claus

VanderWier outlines some universal “don’ts” when discussing Santa. Parents are advised against using Santa as a tool for manipulating behavior, steering clear of fear-inducing language like “Santa won’t come if you don’t behave.” Additionally, respecting children’s autonomy and not forcing them to sit on Santa’s lap aligns with promoting consent education.

As children grow older and become more aware of the logistics behind Santa’s global gift-giving journey, VanderWier emphasizes the importance of transitioning the narrative to focus on kindness and love. She suggests viewing Santa not as an individual but as a spirit embodying happiness and kindness, fostering a sense of togetherness and generosity.

Children’s author and mom, Meg Raby, shares her unique experience with the “Santa talk.” When her kids were 8 and 6, their belief in Santa wavered due to logical explanations from friends at school. However, Raby’s children later rediscovered their beliefs, highlighting the fluid nature of children’s imagination and their ability to embrace the magic of the season.

Raby reflects on the importance of preserving children’s imaginative disposition, emphasizing that the transition in and out of belief should be on their terms and timelines. Whether children believe it or not, the Santa story can serve as a source of inspiration, encouraging kindness and intentionality during the festive season and beyond.

Navigating the Santa conversation involves considering individual family values, respecting children’s autonomy, and fostering a sense of togetherness. As the holiday season unfolds, parents can approach the Santa discussion with sensitivity, creating traditions that encapsulate the magic and joy of Christmas for their children.

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