Hey Rene,

Here’s our dilemma.

For the past 15 years we have had a Christmas party where we invited our friends with kids (even before we had kids).

Santa always comes to the party with gifts for the kids and knows something about each one. He is the real thing and the only Santa my kids have ever known. He is so good that my daughter who turns 13 this month is still a believer.

Unfortunately, earlier this year our “Santa” passed away. Now we don’t know what to do or what to tell the kids as to why we aren’t having the party and Santa isn’t coming to our house this year. Any suggestions?



Dear JoAnn:

Wow, this is a tough one. I have always felt the revelation about Santa even under less dire circumstances was a bit traumatic for kids. It’s the first time in their lives that they come face to face with the fact that their parents have been lying to them about a fictional man, who lives in a fictional place and they are in cahoots with other parents about the whole thing. The way I see it, you have two choices; you concoct an elaborate story about why this year’s Santa is different or you gently break it to your daughter.

THE “ELABORATE STORY” APROACH: If you get someone else to play Santa, your story could be something along the lines that old Santa retired and the job was taken over by his son. That would explain the similar wardrobe, appearance and familial girth.  But I must warn you, something doesn’t feel quite right about covering a lie (even though it’s a happy, holiday one) with another one. The other issue is that at almost 13, I’ll bet your daughter has heard from classmates the truth about Santa but pushed it out of her mind because she wanted to continue believing. Either that or she has her suspicions. I mean really, once they start getting into algebra and geometry they’re going to be able to figure out that a man with a 54-inch waist is not going to be able to shimmy down a chimney that is 12 inches at its widest point.  Kids are pretty smart; and while they might not have it all figured out, they’re able to give it the broad-brush treatment and put a lot of the facts together.

THE TRUTH: I view this as sort of ripping the Band-Aid off quickly, it will hurt for a minute but it will be over as fast and then the healing can begin. The best way to do this might be to find a quiet moment to have a one on one chat. I would be prepared with an answer as to why you (and all parents) play along with the Santa ruse. It might be worth your time (if you are going to use this approach) to do some research on the story of Saint Nick (you’ll find a ton of stuff with a simple Google search). And speaking of Google, the Internet is one of the reasons your daughter might already be further along in her understanding of the real story of Santa Claus. I’ll never forget when I learned Santa was not real; I was ten and the class bully blurted it out on the playground. Nowadays it’s on message boards and social networking sites. I actually think the fact that your daughter has believed for this long is sweet…

And lastly I would say I think sometimes kids go along with things like this because they don’t want to disappoint us. I know that sounds odd but I got that feeling the other day in talking to my Casey. She just turned 14 a few months back and she recently was talking about Santa Claus. But there was a twinkle in her eye and something in her voice that told me she knew what was up. I didn’t ask her; it was just a feeling I got.

I wish I had a more definitive answer for you. I think it really depends on how you think your daughter will react. Just make sure she knows you love her and that this is part of growing up.

Good luck mommy!

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