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My child doesn't believe in Santa

Around the age of reason, your child could start having doubts about the existence of Santa Claus. But it does not mean the end of the holiday season magic.

Even if the old bearded man remains in our hearts forever, there comes a day when the magic is threatened. But it is up to us to manage the situation and ensure that those who no longer believe in Santa continue the tradition for the others. Because that’s what Christmas is about: feeling the magic and keeping the flame burning!

Normal process

No longer believing in Santa is a normal stage in a child’s development. At around 4 or 5 years old, many children start asking questions. They seem to be a little skeptical about the plausibility of the character’s existence. At that time, we can return their questions by asking them, for example: “Do you think reindeers can fly?” Don’t put a stop to the magic too suddenly. At that age, children particularly wonder about the risk of no longer receiving gifts if they stop believing in Santa. Parents should let the little ones make the transition gradually without anticipating the end of all the wonderment and magic. The older they get, the more they hear, see and understand. This can shake up their beliefs, but that is not necessarily a bad thing! They want to grow up, but still, need to believe in the Christmas magic.

A survey reveals that 36% of Canadians believe that a child is never too old to believe in Santa, while 25% believe that children stop believing in the bearded character between 9 and 11 years of age.

Source: Angus Reid Strategies survey

From belief to tradition

At around 7 years old - the age of reason - the children have acquired a lot of knowledge (logic, ability to classify, count, make assumptions, etc.) that allows them to better differentiate between true and false. One of the important steps to reach is to realize that the whole Santa story doesn’t make sense. How could Santa go to every house in the world in one night and know everyone’s wishes? Does he really live in the North Pole? At that point, there’s no need to hide the truth from your children. They will not hold this “lie” against you. In fact, Santa Claus is a myth, a legend and a tradition to everyone, kids and adults.

In a way, “stopping to believe” is somewhat of a rite of passage, explains Serge Larivée, a professor at University of Montreal’s School of Psychoeducation. In family gatherings, the children who have solved the mystery are now on the adult side! They become the secret’s keepers and little actors to make the younger ones believe in the magic.

What happens next?

Once the mystery has been solved, encourage your child to maintain the tradition for the younger children around them (brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, etc.). Children are now letting go of their beliefs and moving towards the tradition.

A few ideas for the magic to continue...
  • The joy of giving. Kids understand that gifts don’t come from Santa, but rather from the people who care about them and who have taken the time to think about them in the hopes of pleasing them. Let them discover the pleasure of giving. Ask them to be your little elves to help you choose presents for the little ones.
  • Family gift. None of your kids believe in Santa? Keep the tradition going by giving yourselves a “family gift” that you will have chosen together, and that you will all enjoy: a game, a special outing, a DVD, etc.
  • New elves. Involve the older kids in your Christmas preparations. It will be your little secret. You will see that your “big elves” will be proud of this new complicity.
  • Believe a little. It’s not forbidden to pretend you still believe...even as adults! Because the wonderment, imagination and magic related to Santa take us back to many great childhood memories. Who said we have to be rational during the holidays?
By Nadine Descheneaux

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