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How to tell children that there are no Santa Claus

Christmas arrives, that time in which year after year the children hope with hope that the Magi bring them gifts. But, I have to tell you something: the Three Kings, Santa Claus or even the Little Mouse Perez, do not really exist. Is it good to lie to children with the existence of these unreal beings? How to tell the children that the Three Kings are the parents? Let’s try to answer these questions.

Why do we tell the children the story of the Three Kings or Santa Claus?

The world of fantasy is important for the healthy growth of children, it is their way of interpreting the outside world that they do not understand at the moment. There are many people who can not understand this and wonder if it is good for children to have so many fantastic ideas in their heads. There is a big difference between playing with fictitious beings and lying about the existence of these beings. Think about it, you were also a kid and you saw the drawings of Dragon Ball and not because of that now you think you can release vital waves. If done responsibly, everything is accommodated within our natural cognitive development.

One thing is for a kid to play as a Ryder of the Dog Patrol or to be Batman and another very different is to believe that dogs can talk and that Batman has a batcueva under the house. The child is fostering their creativity but knows that it is a game and that they are characters of fiction. In cases where they develop inappropriate behavior or thoughts, parents will correct them and end up telling them. Why not do the same with the Magi?

The innocence and fantasy that parents see in their children is often very comforting for them, even for many parents there comes a time when they are more delighted by the gifts than the children themselves. They are the first to have everything prepared, shoes, letters, etc … for these “magical” days. In addition, creating mythological beings as a way to justify or personify facts is something very common in the history of humanity. A thing similar to the cultural creation of divinities and gods happens. For example, the Greeks created Helios to be able to personify the sun and give an explanation. Well, telling the children that Santa Claus exists is more or less like saying that there is the god of gifts. The mind of children does not come with that knowledge of implanted series, is therefore a “lie” that is told to explain or justify something.

>> Related article: The myth of psyche: history of the symbol of psychology.

Tell it or not?

Telling them the mythological story or telling them that it is a game of fiction to encourage illusion is the personal decision of everyone. There are no scientific studies that verify that one thing is better than the other at the moment. From my personal point of view and as a psychologist, you should never lie to children and should know the difference between lying and fictional representation, especially when they reach a certain age.

Children are more intelligent than we believe, but we should not let them end up assimilating as true things that are not. If by themselves they are not able to find out, it has to be told in due time. We live in the age of the millennials, in the time of the digital natives, and many modern parents already choose to tell the truth since they are small, as one more game. I think sooner or later that will be the trend.

At what age should we tell the children that the Santa Claus do not exist (or are they the parents)?

If your children, whether by social culture or because you have said it yourself, already believe in the Three Kings and you want to tell the truth, when is better to tell it?

Usually there comes an age when the children themselves begin to suspect and to think that there are things that do not fit the Twelfth Night or Christmas Eve. How does Santa Claus carry so many gifts if he’s just one person? Children wonder a thousand things, it is their way to mature and develop in the environment. That is why, many times of these questions are born the rumors and in their own environment appear the first children who have discovered it and they have escaped to say it to the others.

Children understand reality differently throughout their development. Until the age of 4, they surely believe firmly in the real existence of the Magi (basically believe as true all that is said to them). This is because they are not prepared for abstract knowledge. When they reach the age of 6 years, questions and doubts usually begin to arise. Approximately between the ages of 6 and 8 is when they have matured enough to understand that the Three Kings are not real or at least they are not like physical persons of flesh and bone that appear suddenly in his house (there are children who develop Fear of those mysterious people). Abstract reasoning ability develops in the stage between 8 and 14 years. With these data, normally the age so that they know the reality of the Magi is around 8 and 11 years old. It is currently very unlikely that a child with 11 years still believes in them. So, if your child reaches an age around 10 years of believing firmly in the existence of the Magi, it is better that you tell the truth.

>> Related article: Psychomotor Dexterity. Phases of learning.

Tips to tell children that the Santa Claus are the parents.

  1. Do not tell her at Christmas. The other is that you never have to tell the children the truth during the gift time itself. He thinks that they have already written their letters and have all the illusion of the accumulated world. We can not grasp and frustrate them without necessity when their illusion is highest. That is why we have to wait for these dates to tell you the truth, when they are not thinking about whether the Kings are going to bring them the gift they have asked for or not and also just after receiving the gifts, when they are enjoying them . You have to let at least a few weeks or months pass when the Christmas effect has passed.
  2. Know that they may be disappointed by their parents’ lies. If the child is not sufficiently prepared or their fantasies are deeply ingrained, they will believe that their own parents have been lying to them all this time. This must be avoided, and for that we must explain it by making clear what the illusion and surprise of the gifts means. It is still a game. They have to know the difference between lying and keeping a secret, for the illusion of it. An example is when gifts are made for birthdays, which are also kept secret. Both for the children and for the parents who buy and hide the gifts, they too are deluded. To deny something will be harmless if you do, but you can create some sense of disbelief of the children about the things that their parents tell them and will end up also using lies to explain their things. Sincerity.
  3. Explain to them what real gifts mean. If a child behaves well throughout the year just so that the Magi do not bring them coal something is working poorly, according to psychology. The child has to understand that the Kings perform the illusion of every day and that the gifts represent the affection of the people around them, represented culturally by the fantastic figure of the Magi or Santa Claus. People must be educated to behave prosocially for themselves (intrinsic motivation), and not with an external motive (extrinsic motivation), much less if it is for the wishes of an imaginary third person. You may feel that your behavior is conditioned and coerced to that mysterious gift god. Does this sound to religious offerings and faith in God? Yes, it is the same.
  4. Say it in your own words. Do not use technicalities or strange words and be fairly direct and simple. Use your own words to explain the situation, the child, I repeat, is smarter than you think and I’m sure you understand. Also, if you open up naturally to him he will end up later telling you more problems and other secrets, because he knows he can trust his parents.

>> Related article: How to set motivational goals.

A creative way of saying it: the letter of the Santa Claus for children.

Finally, a creative alternative to tell the children the reality of the Three Kings or Santa Claus is to write a letter to them, just as they do when they ask for their gifts to their majesties. This will keep some illusion and will not be as cold as saying it directly. It would be a matter of writing a text, manuscript or computer, and why not send it by postal mail so that it arrives at the address as if it came from the very same Magi. Once received, leave it in your room so you can see it, observe who the sender is and open it so that the child can read it alone and calm.

In the letter we will tell you personal things of your day to day so that you will know that little by little you will assimilate that it is your family that is behind the figures of the Magi (or any other being).

I propose an example text of what that letter might look like:

Hi, XXXXXX.

We are the Three Kings. Surely you know of us having sent many letters for these dates asking for gifts. We hope that this year you have behaved well, behaving well is the best way to receive things in return.

We wanted to tell you something. The important thing is not that we are Kings or Magicians. The important thing is that whoever sends you the gifts are people who love you very much, who know how you feel and what you deserve each of the gifts.

We know a lot about you, as many as your parents know: that you like to skate, draw with your brother and until you’ve started playing basketball, that’s great !. We also know that you like to tell your parents the things that your XXXXXX teacher teaches when leaving school and that you like to go down to play with your friends, like XXXXXX, XXXXXX, XXXXXX, XXXXXX …

After all these years we know well that you strive to do things very well, that you help your little brother in everything (although sometimes you remove the toys of the Dog Patrol). We know that you like to help Grandma cook, that you go with the grandfather to the park (and that you buy many cards) and that this year you have already turned 9 years. How great!

As you are older we would like to tell you a little big secret. A secret that you can not tell your little brother or other classmates, or the park, because the other children do not know. It will be our secret! Read this in a low voice and no one will listen to you while you read it, okay? Like all secrets no one can find out.

That secret is about the mystery of the Three Kings. Few know the great truth of this mystery and you are already prepared to know it, and keep that truth as a great secret and not tell the other children. You’ve been very good and you deserve to know it.

The secret is the following. The Three Kings are just the fantastic representatives of how much you love your dad, your mom, your grandparents, your uncles and all the people around you and want a lot. We are with the characters of story but we do not exist in reality, only in the fantasy, the illusion and the hearts of all who love you.

Now you know, the Three Kings do not exist as people, people who put toys at night while you sleep are … your parents! Your parents are the ones who represent the Magi, as if they were actors.

If your parents put toys to you by this time, it’s because they know you deserve them and that you have been good, they are the ones that best know you and those who love you the most, like the rest of your family who also give gifts to your parents to That you put them at night and wake up with the illusion of opening the gifts. Because you are a good son, a good grandson and a good nephew and your family makes you happy to see you happy and excited. All of that deserves you to wake up with a surprise these days, just like when they give you gifts for your birthday. He loves you so much and that’s why they give you gifts. As you love them.

Your little brother is not yet ready to know the secret so do not tell him anything and keep the secret, it is a great responsibility! Now that you know who the Magi are you have to help your parents to keep this secret and keep the illusion of these days by the surprise of the gifts. Every year you have to keep putting your shoes at night to wait for the gifts to arrive and continue to believe that the Magi come a few more years.

A very big kiss and hug of the Magi and of Dad, Mom and all the people who love you.

Sobre el autor

Iván Pico

Graduado en Psicología (UNED). Nº Colegiado G-5480. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales (USC). Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y las Organizaciones. (INESEM). Máster Universitario Oficial en Orientación Profesional (UNED). Posgrado en Neuromarketing (Universidad Camilo José Cela). Técnico Deportivo Nivel II, fútbol sala (RFEF). Especialista en Psicología Aplicada al Deporte. Etc, etc...
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  • Yo se lo acabo de decir y me muero de pena… él no sospechaba nada pero en el cole han ido ya los amigos diciéndolo y me ha pedido que le dijera la verdad… yo creo que por si mismo hubiera aguantado un año mas

    • Hola Laura.
      Para crear confianza en los niños es fundamental que se les cuente la verdad. Has hecho lo correcto. La ilusión o la perderá porque sabe que es una fecha en la que recibirá regalos. De hecho, saber que proceden de alguien que te quiere de verdad es mucho más gratificante 🙂

      Un saludo

  • Hola. Me ha servido mucho este articulo. Tengo un niño de 9 años que cree en Papa Noel nunca me ha cuestionado nada. Pero creo que ya está en edad de saber que no es cierto. quiero decirselo antes que se entere por algún amigo y piense que le hemos mentido por mucho tiempo. La idea de la carta me parece genial. Pero aún no me siento fuerte de decirselo.

    • Hola Sandra.
      Es un momento en el que parece que se rompe la magia, pero los niños son más inteligentes de lo que a veces pensamos y nos llevamos “sorpresas”. En muchas ocasiones la ilusión es más de los padres que de los propios niños. Contar la verdad, siempre es la mejor elección para generar confianza en los niños con sus padres.

      Me alegra saber que te ha ayudado el artículo 🙂

      Un saludo,

      Iván Pico
      Psicólogo
      Lugo

  • Hola Ivan, muy interesante tu articulo, mi hijo tiene 8 años y ya los amigos del cole se lo estan contando, ¿crees que ahora es un buen momento, justo antes de las fiestas? Ya nos ha pillado con los libros de las jugueterias y esta mosqueado. Gracias de antemano

    • ¡Hola Carmen María!
      Gracias por tus palabras.
      A los 8 años es cuando se empieza se empieza a desarrollar el pensamiento abstracto pero no todos los niños evolucionan igual con lo cual a esa edad, como bien dices, algunos niños ya som capaces de entenderlo y genera estas situaciones.
      Lo mejor siempre es no mentir a los niños para crear una confianza paterno-filial apropiada. Son más inteligentes de lo que a veces creemos.
      Lo ideal, si tiene el concepto de Papa Noel muy asimilado, es decírselo con bastante anterioridad al día de la ilusión ficticia (navidad, reyes) ya que cada día que pase más cercano más desilusión será (en caso de esa reacción) pero el refuerzo que supone todo lo que envuelve la navidad (decoración, juguetes, papas noeles por la calle, publicidad…)

      Ser naturales y contarlo de forma creativa ayudará a dar ese paso.

      Espero haberte ayudado 🙂

      Un saludo,

      Iván Pico.
      Psicólogo
      Lugo, Galicia, España.

  • Me ha encantado la idea de la carta. La pondré en práctica con mi hija de 10 años. A mi hija mayor le monté en casa una yincana y a través de las diferentes pruebas se fue acercando y descubrió el tesoro definitivo donde nos confesábamos sus “reyes magos”. Reaccionó bien y no lo recuerda traumático. Fue también a la edad de 10 años. Gracias, un saludo.

    • ¡Hola Laura! Lo más importante es generar confianza y lo que puede llegar a ser complicado puede ser una buena fórmula para mejorar el vínculo con los hijos 🙂
      Me alegra saber que te ha servido de ayuda.

      Un saludo,
      Iván Pico
      Psicólogo
      Lugo

      • En el fondo se trata de eso, de darle la máxima naturalidad posible. El problema es cuando una creencia está muy asentada en nuestro conocimiento como una verdad absoluta. Como ejemplo, si a un creyente en una religión le explicas que no hay evidencias de que dios exista es más que probable que te diga que no tienes razón porque para él sí existe. Partir de la veracidad es lo que creará una mayor relación de confianza.

        Gracias por el aporte.

  • Hola Iván. gracias por tu preocupación por nosotros para tocar este tema tan infantil, pero a la vez tan importante para todos.
    Nosotros tenemos tres hijos, y como todo padre, desea ver a sus hijos felices. En lo personal he hecho verdaderas operaciones militares para que ellos siempre crean que es Santa quien les ha dejado los regalos. Lo hemos hecho tan pero tan bien, que ahora no sabemos cómo decirles que es solo una fantasía.
    Nuestro hijo mayor, este año cumplió 15 años… allá por Febrero le dijimos la verdad… hace poco me contó que después de que se lo dijimos, se fue a su cuarto a llorar, pero como bien dices en tu análisis de la personalidad, ahora ya lo superó.
    La segunda es una niña de 14 años, quien aún pelea con sus amigas de que Santa existe. Nos da mucha pena. Dijimos que este año antes de diciembre le diríamos la verdad.. pero se nos pasó el tiempo y como bien dices, “no hay que decírselos en diciembre”… deberemos esperar hasta febrero o marzo del próximo año… Ella es de carácter fuerte, seria, equilibrada e inteligente, a pesar de esto, como te repito, lo hemos hecho tan bien,. que aun a esta edad tiene una fe férrea. Se que nos hemos pasado mucho del tiempo, 14 años y tu recomiendas decirselos a los 11… el próximo año, con total seguridad, se lo diremos porque no podemos permitir que se burlen de ella en la escuela… debemos hacerlo.. danos una idea por favor.
    La tercera es una niña de 7 años… ella aun está en edad de creerlo. Sus hermanos nos ayudarán a mantener la ilusión.
    A veces haces las cosas tan bien, que luego no sabes cómo deshacerlas jejejejeje…

    • Hola Roberto.

      Gracias por el comentario y las palabras. Como bien dices, con esa edad ya deberían conocer la verdad. De hecho, tienen muy fácil el acceso a la información y su capacidad de razonamiento lógico ya está plenamente desarrollada ya que ya están entrando en la edad adulta y más aún tratándose de una chica. Es raro que no se hayan ya algunas preguntas por la situación tan extraña que conlleva que aparezcan regalos “de la nada”. Al tener una niña pequeña que todavía está en la edad de esa fantasía probad a reforzar ese momento con la confianza que genera compartir un secreto para que no lo sepa la más pequeña. A partir de ahí mantendrá la ilusión pero desde otra perspectiva: la de preparar los regalos.
      Decírselo mediante una carta como la del ejemplo del artículo es buena idea, pero al tratarse de una persona más desarrollada podéis optar por una conversación más de adultos haciéndole algunas preguntas al respecto por si ella misma se da cuenta de la situación. Lo más importante es que no sienta que se le ha mentido y que ha sido por esa “ilusión compartida” de la navidad, como parte de vuestro afecto hacia ella y hacia vuestra familia.

      Espero que os sirva de ayuda 🙂

      Un saludo.

  • Hola Iván, me ha gustado mucho tu carta.
    Hace tiempo que buscaba cómo decírselo a mi hijo pero siempre encontraba la misma historia que perpetuaba los reyes magos que hacían el encargo a los papás y no me parecía adecuada.
    Él lo ha creído hasta ahora ya que estamos en un pueblo pequeño y los reyes vienen a casa en persona a traer los regalos casa por casa.
    Este año, aunque no pregunta nada, sí está investigador sobre el tema, supongo que debido a comentarios de amigos y ya toca que lo sepa, pero me ha pillado el toro.
    Ahora tengo la carta ideal pero recomiendas no hacérsela llegar en estas fechas (temo la vuelta al cole ya que tiene once años). Bueno, pensaba hacerlo ya, pero esperaré unas semanas pues, a ver qué tal va..
    ¡Gracias!

    • ¡Hola Eva! Me alegra saber que el artículo te haya ayudado a comprender la situación.

      Además, tenemos que pensar que vivimos en una sociedad del acceso a la información y que es muy fácil para ellos encontrar respuestas a sus “¿por qué?”, cada vez con una edad más temprana. Te lo digo, porque a raíz de este artículo he llegado recibir algún mensaje de niños a través de internet diciéndome que era mentira, que los Reyes sí existían… Por este motivo, es conveniente esa educación a tiempo.

      Un saludo,
      Iván Pico

    • Bueno no te preocupes ha mi tambien me la han arruinado contal solo 10 años que tengo pero es la verdad igualmente lo irias ha saber de mayor.El miedo es como decirselo y ya este año que vengan los reyes bueno mejor dicho los padres se lo diré.

  • Hola me encanto lo de la carta es que mi hijo ya tiene 9 años, y es re inocente ya que no tiene muchos amigos, solo sus compañeros de clases y quiero decirle antes que se lo digan ellos, y buscaba la forma y me encantó lo de la carta y lo voy hacer gracias a él Hasta yo creo en ellos es hermosa la etapa de creer gracias X ayudarnos.