QUESTION: Should I tell my nine-year-old
daughter who Santa Claus really is?
ANSWER: Like the Tooth Fairy, Santa
Claus exists to inspire children with a sense of wonder. As with any
fable, its value lies in the capacity for holding reality and integrating
changes. Losing a tooth can be traumatic for a young child, but the
Tooth Fairy eases this loss and promises renewal and reward. Santa
Claus beckons festivity and excitement at the onset of winter and
darkness in many parts of the world. What better time to remind children
of the goodwill of Saint Nick?
It is probable, however, that you are the one being
fooled! It's unlikely that your daughter has not already suspected
-- if not discovered -- the facts, by this age. Perhaps she isn't
telling you because she knows how much you enjoy the fable. Your willingness
to share the truth with her can be an important experience of trust
in showing her the confidence you have in her to handle the truth.
Even if she already knows it!
All children must outgrow such fables, and you have
determined that this is the time for your daughter to do so. Yet,
despite the fact that there is no Santa, the "spirit of Christmas"
can very much be kept alive. Your desire to give her the childhood
experience of Santa Claus is based on a desire to engender wonder,
excitement and anticipation of pleasure. These are all important aspects
of enjoyment in life. But now it is time for her to incorporate the
spirit of Santa Claus into being able to give to others.
Perhaps she will internalize Santa as a message that
good things can come to her. This could be a comforting feeling to
fall back upon; however, at this age of interest in accomplishment
and being able to "do" in the world, she will benefit from coming
to terms with reality (if she hasn't discovered the truth already).
And she will gain from the personal connection of gifts coming from
people who love and care for her. Perhaps even more so than a mysterious
It is time for her to feel the power of "giving" and
play at being Santa Claus, herself. Do not underestimate the personal
power of gift giving as well as receiving. This power can be developed
only in the context of the truth. Your daughter will benefit from
the fact that the spirit of Christmas is not created by Santa Claus,
but by ordinary people who love and care for each other!