A parents’ guide to navigating the end of believing in Santa

With the festive season on the horizon, parents often find themselves navigating the delicate transition when their pre-teen starts to outgrow the magic of Santa Claus and other beloved Christmas traditions. Mark Thomas, an IT project manager and father to an eleven-year-old son from Leicester, candidly shares his experience of the challenges that arise when a child is no longer believing in Santa.

santa

“We had so many lovely traditions that he just isn’t interested in anymore. It feels like he’s moved on and is almost embarrassed if we remind him. It’s a shame as Christmas was such an important time for us to spend together as a family. Now if we ask him to write to Santa or put cookies out, he just says ‘Dad – Santa’s not real!’” Thomas reflects.

This sentiment resonates with many parents who grapple with a sense of loss when their child reaches this developmental milestone. To offer guidance on managing this shift, London Mums Magazine spoke to therapists from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

Heidi Soholt, a BACP member, notes, “Every childhood developmental milestone is characterised by gains and losses. While you celebrate your child’s achievements and progress, there can be simultaneous feelings of loss – the end of a precious stage that cannot be regained.”

Susie Pinchin, also a BACP member, emphasises the normalcy of parental upset when kids no longer believe in Santa. “The years when they do believe let’s our inner child come out and get caught up in the excitement and seeing the wonder and innocence in them as their excitement builds. However, it’s natural for kids to start to question Santa and have doubts about the big man. It’s ok to grieve the loss of this innocent stage and want to try to prolong it as long as possible,” she explains.

Portrait of Santa Claus with alarm clock in hand

If your child is beginning to question Santa’s existence, Pinchin suggests not worrying about the right or wrong way to reveal the truth. “It depends on the child’s age and their maturity as well as the way the doubts crept in for them,” she advises. Encouraging open communication, she suggests asking the child what they think, allowing for a natural progression toward honesty.

Heidi Soholt reminds parents to acknowledge that their child may also be experiencing a sense of loss and sadness, along with concerns about how Christmas will be without the belief in Santa. “Reassure your child that Christmas can still be magical, special, and fun, and that knowing the truth about Santa doesn’t mean no presents!” Soholt assures. She recommends using this time as an opportunity to establish new traditions and explore different activities now that the child is older.

As emotions run high during this transition, it’s essential for parents to recognise that their child’s evolving understanding of Santa is a positive and natural developmental milestone. The BACP experts encourage parents to embrace this new phase and find joy in creating fresh holiday traditions together.

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