What to Do When Your Kids Find Out Santa's Not Real

By Nannette Richford
Santa checks his list before leaving gifts.
Santa checks his list before leaving gifts.

Many parents teach their children that Santa Claus appears in the middle of the night and leaves piles of gifts for good little boys and girls. It lends magic to the Christmas season and delights the imagination of adults and children across the globe. In fact, Jared Durtschi, a Kansas State University professor of marriage and family therapy, told the website Live Science that when the belief centers around giving and loving, believing in Santa is healthy and can serve the child throughout his life. At some point, however, the fantasy must fade and your child must face the truth that Santa is not real. How you handle the moment of truth depends on your child.

Assessing the Situation

Sometimes children come to parents not because they are ready to give up their belief in Santa, but because they fear he isn't real. Knowing your child's motivation can help you decide how and when to break the news. At moments like this, a little probing is in order to find out exactly what your child is thinking. If you sense fear or hesitation, asking your child what he thinks and following his lead is the best choice. Just because your child asks the question doesn't always mean he's ready to hear the answer.

Fess Up

Some parents choose to simply fess up to the fact that Santa and his reindeer are fantasy. Because your child has probably already known this for a number of years, the knowledge that Santa isn't real isn't likely to cause a shock. Explaining that Santa embodies the concept of giving freely to others simply to bring them joy might be all that is needed for your little one to transition from believing in Santa to believing in the magic of giving.

Feigning Shock

Feigning shock is always an option and can lead to years of enjoyment for both you and your child. If you pretend to believe in the magical old elf and his flying reindeer you might be surprised to learn that your child will happily play along too. Many children enjoy the fantasy of Santa and will feign believing so not to ruin all your fun. Although lying to your child is not recommended, a little play acting goes a long way.


Some children feel betrayed when they discover that you have lied to them about Santa, according to the Psyche Central website. These children feel a sense that that the people they trusted most in the world are suddenly unreliable. In some cases, the discovery affects the parent-child relationship into adulthood. Being aware of your child's temperament and treating his need for facts with respect early might prevent issues over the myth of Santa. Gently introducing the concept of fantasy and myth early, before your little one pops the big question, might soften the blow for those children who place a high value on facts.

About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.