How to Tell Your Kids About Santa: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: November 27, 2019
Not sure how to break the news to your kid about Santa? We have advice on how and when to approach the subject, and phrases to use to make the experience less painful and keep the magic of Christmas alive.
3 kids looking at Santa and his reindeer under moonlight sky.

As the winter holiday season approaches, it also becomes a time of constant stories, images, decorations, and traditions involving Santa Claus for many families who celebrate Christmas. There is so much to love about Santa—the magic, the memories connected to our own childhoods, the mystery, and the excitement. 

Some parents make very conscious choices about how they talk about Santa Claus to start framing the concept and conversation early. Others let the chips fall as they may and simply ride the Santa tide for as long as possible. 

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The good news is that there is no one right way to tell your kids the truth about Santa. Santa can be whatever you want him to be and whatever works best for your family. The magic of Santa is boundless! That said, there may come a time when you want to or need to start addressing this topic with your children more specifically. Fortunately, we’ve got a step-by-step guide for you to help you no matter where your family is on the Santa Claus journey.

Phrases to Use When Talking About Santa with your Family

Dad using the proper phrases to talk to his son about Santa in front of Christmas tree

Regardless of how you’ve talked about Santa Claus with your family in past years, it’s never too late to start using certain phrases when you reference Santa going forward. As parents, we want our children to have a fun and magical holiday, but we also want to feel truthful. There are many ways to encompass both in your discussions.

One way to do so is to emphasize that it is a choice to believe. There are many aspects of life and the beyond that people either choose to believe in or not. It is no different from Santa Claus. As children become old enough to understand choices and the power of making them, begin to explain that we all have the choice to believe in magic or not. You can also emphasize that everyone has the right to believe whatever they would like, but it’s a personal choice. In addition, you can discuss why people choose to believe in magic—the unexplainable aspects of life, the beauty and joy of believing in magic, and the way that it makes everything feel more special. 

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PRO TIP: Some parents also enjoy using the phrase, “When you believe in Santa, Santa believes in you.”

Another phrase that is helpful to use revolves around the spirit of Santa Claus. When you speak about the spirit of Santa, you can be very direct with your children. The spirit of Santa Claus is all about kindness and generosity for all. It’s about happiness and sharing. The spirit of Santa is for everyone regardless of age. There can never be a downside to promoting the spirit of giving to all in this world. It is a beautiful concept for everyone.

Lastly, it can go a long way if you choose to avoid focusing on the phrase Believing in Santa and shift it to an emphasis on Being Santa. No matter how old your children are, focusing on how we can all BE the spirit of Santa by thinking of others and by not just giving physical gifts but also by giving of our time and by giving the best of ourselves to others is a wonderful way to connect Santa Claus with the holidays.

The above phrases can help you discuss Santa Claus, but they can also help you answer questions until you are ready to have a different kind of discussion.

When to Tell Your Kids About Santa

Mother choosing the right time to tell her daughter about Santa in front of the Christmas tree

If you want to have a more factual conversation about Santa Claus with your children, there are several factors to consider. You’ll want to think about not only when they might want to have a conversation about this, but also when you are ready to have this conversation. The magic of Santa never has to go away, no matter where your family currently stands on the Santa Claus journey. As long as you truly understand this and are ready to share that truth with your children, then you should trust your instincts as no one will ever know your child better than you do.

How to Tell Your Kids About Santa

Boy toddler and infant helping their mom with Christmas donations

It is important to start the conversation by acknowledging that this is a special conversation that your child has demonstrated that they are ready for through beautiful aspects of who they are. These things can include their giving spirit, their generosity, their thoughtfulness, their kindness, and more. You can share that as they have grown, so has their heart, and you believe that their heart is now big enough to help spread the spirit of Santa to others

At this point in the conversation, you can answer questions as directly as you feel comfortable with, but the most important thing is to emphasize how special it is for them to now be able to help you share Santa’s spirit with others. It is a privilege, and it is no less magical than only seeing Santa Claus from the perspective of a very young child.

As Heather Wallace, Empowered Parenting expert, shares: “There are so many Christmas traditions your family can adopt once the cat is out of the bag about Santa. One fun way to keep the Christmas spirit is to bake and decorate Christmas cookies together. Instead of leaving them for Santa, have your children deliver the cookies to a nursing home. The family can reminisce about the days when Santa was real in your household while creating new Christmas memories together.”  

Having this kind of conversation about Santa with your children simply allows you to start new traditions together. They can still be magical and exciting and fun. Whether you help your child pick out, wrap, and deliver a secret present for a friend or family member of her choice or do this all together as a family depending on where the rest of your family is at, your child will experience a joy that will hopefully stay with her forever. The spirit of Santa Claus is real, and it lives within all of us who believe in giving and in the sharing of our gifts with others. It is a beautiful legacy to pass down to your children. 

Here’s how one mom handled the “Santa talk” with her son.