It's probably a controversial topic, especially at this time of year, but this is what works for our family and I think it needs to be said.
We don't do Santa at our house.
To put it simply, I believe this tradition has lost its meaning and that it doesn't carry very positive messages for little people. I've seen too many parents using Santa as a bargaining or behaviour management tool. I think there's too much potential for shame when kids feel they aren't good enough because they didn't get what they really, really wanted. And frankly, I'm not okay with all that secrecy.
We have a very strict no secrets policy at our house and I can't get past the fact that it's a giant lie. A giant lie that needs to be explained and covered up by lots of smaller lies and sneaking around for years and years. "But you're robbing them of their childhood innocence!" you say? Not so much. I'm simply choosing to teach my two boys something different instead.
Originally, I had decided not to say anything at all about Santa and that way it wouldn't even be an issue. But, then everyone else started talking about it and asking my kids what they wanted from Santa or if they'd visited him yet, so I had to change my plans. I chose on purpose never to use the words "Santa isn't real," so if your kid comes home all upset, s/he didn't hear it from my kid. I tell my boys that there was a person who lived a long time ago, who made gifts for children to play with, so around the holidays people like to talk about and decorate with Santa as a way to remember that kindness. When we're in the mall and there's a person dressed like Santa I say, "Look, there's a person dressed like Santa;" and when we go to another mall I say, "Look there's another person dressed like Santa too." No muss, no fuss, no childhood trauma.
This has been working really well for us for the past five holidays. This year, my oldest had a 10 minute conversation with me were nearly every one of his sentences started with, "Do you know how I know that the Santa story is just a story? Because..." He was insightful and honest and there wasn't an ounce of upset for either of us. In fact, I was really happy I didn't have to try to cover up all those gaps and impossibilities with more and more lies.
Instead, I choose on purposeto focus on the holidays being a time to show kindness and when we get to be with the people we love. If we happen to get presents too, that's just a bonus. Before the holiday season starts, we go through all their toys and clothes and consign or donate what we don't need any more to make room for exciting new things. We talk before we go to family dinners and set the expectation that the kids sit with the person who gave them a gift, unwrap it and say "Thank you." Later when we get back home, we all decide what gifts we'll keep, return or donate. Most importantly, I let my kids see me doing this too. Both my boys are articulate, confident and generous and I'm so over-the-moon proud of them when they say something like, "This can go in the donate pile, I think someone else would like it better than me." This is our new holiday tradition, one that I chose on purpose and one that gives us the chance to talk about how very lucky we are and how important is it to help other people.
Christine Marion-Jolicoeur helps busy parents find the joy in everyday moments so they can raise healthy, connected kids. She's an Amazon #1 bestselling author and creator of the Joyful Parenting workbook + ecourse. You can download the free Joyful Parenting ebook, your 6 step guide to confidence, clarity and connection with your kids when you need it most at ChristineMJ.com.