THE BLOG

What to tell the Kids About Santa?

12/23/2012 09:41 am ET | Updated Feb 20, 2013

Caution! Santa spoilers may follow!

Someone last week described in minute detail the lengths she and her husband go to to keep Santa alive for their three boys. They have enlisted the help of the now popular Elf on the Shelf, an interactive hide-and-seek game where magical elf figures are placed in a different spot each morning after they've "flown home" to the North Pole at night to report back on who's been naughty or nice in the household.

It's a charming idea that has garnered a sizable following. But for these two working parents, every night, the entire month of December, they must remember the Elf. Where was he today? Where will he be in the morning when we wake up? Add this to Christmas shopping, baking, gift-wrapping, card-sending, family-hosting...you get the idea.

Despite their best efforts, the middle child, the family's 6-year old, was beginning to have his doubts about Santa. Mom said he would be punished if he stopped believing or breathed a word of his thoughts to his brothers. No gifts for him.

Really? Punishing a child for his thoughts about Santa Claus? Every parent has been through this. Especially if there is a sizable age gap between the kids in the family. Most older siblings are only too happy to play along once they understand.

The truth is, Santa is as much for parents as he is for children, right? My kids believe in Santa = they are young and innocent, and look up at me with saucer eyes, believing and obeying everything - or most - of what I say.

They stop believing = they are older, beginning to question the world around them - and who do they question, or defy, more than anyone: mom and dad.

It is a coming of age. Up until now most milestones have been physical..learning to walk, run, ride a bike. Even success at school in the early grades, doesn't require any questioning of authority.

In our busy, hard and sometimes cold world, we have learned as adults that a belief in some kind of magic can help soften the edges. And as parents we can easily get caught up in the magic of the season, seeing those young eyes light up on Christmas morning.

But the real magic is in helping our children make the leap to the other side, and finding the true meaning of Christmas.