I recently read a magazine article about when to reveal to children the truth about Santa Claus.
Very early I told our child that Santa was a big make-believe game that we all play together, but that she had to keep it a secret from other kids because some families like to pretend that Santa is real, and it’s not right for us to interfere in how other families play.
She told me years later that she loved knowing this; it made her feel part of the great adult conspiracy. She enjoyed pretending to believe in Santa; knowing he’s make-believe doesn’t take anything away from a kid who loves playing make-believe. Instead, it brings adults into the child’s make-believe world on a scale that never experienced otherwise.
When she was ready to stop pretending, she told us we could stop playing. She controlled the timing, and I think that’s important, even preferable to guessing when the child is ready to stop.
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I highly recommend this approach. We get the magic of make-believe. We get a wonderful sense of community and inclusiveness. We reinforce the parent-child bond. We show our child the kind of respect that she both internalizes and then reciprocates. And we do it all by telling the truth about Santa.