Help! My 12-Year-Old Still Believes in Santa!

Have you ever wondered when you should truthfully answer the question “Is Santa Claus Real?” Here are some thoughts on when is the right time to come clean with your kids.

Is Santa Claus real? Help! My 12-year old still believes in Santa!

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I blame myself, really. My incessant need to make it so real for my kids that they’d believe for years and years.

The first Christmas after my oldest daughter was born, I vowed to my husband that she’d never figure out the truth about Santa the way I did. I was going to be more clever. Cover my tracks.

Is Santa Claus Real?

The real Santa would never use the same wrapping paper as me, I told him. And the real Santa would never have my handwriting. My Mom was an amateur. I was on to her by the time I was nine. That wasn’t going to happen at my house.

My daughter was just 10 months old when her first Christmas rolled around. She had no clue who Santa was. But every Santa gift was wrapped in special paper. No tag from Santa bore my handwriting. I was hardcore right from the start.

Still, I knew it would happen eventually, and I dreaded the day my sweet, innocent child would utter those four words that would change Christmas forever: “Is Santa Claus real?”

I suppose I should be thankful she and her nine-year-old sister have spared me from having to break their little hearts by confirming their suspicions. So far, I haven’t had to tell them that the real Santa isn’t a magical man who rewards them with gifts for their good behavior. It’s just me.

But with the oldest now two months away from her official induction to tweendom, I’m about ready for her to call my bluff. Because how on earth can a child so intelligent still believe something so impossible?

The Real Santa Would Be a Lot Noisier

I really don’t know if I should be flattered that these kids of mine will believe anything that comes out of my mouth, or worried that their critical thinking skills are very obviously stunted.

A herd of magical flying reindeer lands silently on our house, carrying a robust, elderly man who shimmies his way down our non-existent chimney with an oversized sack of gifts and moves through the house — wearing heavy boots no less — to retrieve cookies and milk before somehow getting himself back up the (still non-existent) chimney and flying off to the next house?

And no one hears anything?

I’ve been surveying other Moms with kids of the same age to find out what’s happening at their houses. Is mine the only 11-year-old who believes? She’s already told me she’s the only one in her class who does. I’m starting to wonder if I’m being duped.

According to my completely non-scientific study, it’s a girl thing, and there’s a consensus among my Mom friends that the kids who still believe might only be saying so because they’re afraid admitting the truth will have a direct impact on their holiday bounty. Which, at my house at least, is true.

I’m looking forward to the day my kids stop asking for game consoles and tablets because they’ll know it’s my pocketbook they’re coming from and not some elf-run factory at the North Pole.

(Seriously, how are these kids not catching on to this?)

Over the years they’ve reached certain conclusions. The Santa who appears every year at a church bazaar we attend, for example, is definitely not the real Santa. They know this because they’ve caught him on more than one occasion pulling down his beard to scratch his real (grey) mustache underneath.

And the Santas at the mall aren’t the real Santa, either, because Santa can’t possibly be at every mall at the same time. Plus, he’s very busy this time of year. But if they have a real beard, my kids have decided they are Santa’s recruits. They definitely know The Big Guy, so it’s safe to leave a wish list with them. They’ll make sure the real Santa sees it.

I know I’m responsible for this madness. When my oldest daughter was two and finally starting to understand the concept of Santa, I was so excited that I took her to see every Santa within a 50-mile radius. That is until she asked me, “Why does this Santa look different from the last one?

I had to regroup. Remembering my vow to keep her believing for as long as any child has ever believed, I’ve allowed her and her sister to sit on the lap of only one Santa per year ever since.

And they’re not going unless he has a real beard.

Is Santa Claus real? Help! My 12-year old still believes in Santa!

The Age Most Kids Figure It Out

According to psychologists, believing in Santa can be beneficial to children because it teaches selflessness and service to others. In most cases, eight or nine is the age that children stop believing in Santa, but not for the reasons you’d think.

While most parents would probably blame their child’s peers for blowing the whistle, it actually has more to do with the normal development of a child’s brain.

Between the ages of three and seven, children are more willing to suspend reality so things make sense to them. They believe Santa’s reindeer can fly and that a man can travel to every house in the world in a single night because they’re told it happens, and the story is reinforced over and over by many people, making it more believable.

By the age of eight or nine, however, most children start to question the mechanics of Santa’s operation. Their critical thinking skills take over and they begin to realize it’s physically impossible for reindeer to fly or for one man to travel to all four corners of the earth in one day.

So should you tell your eight- or nine-year-old the cold, hard truth when he or she asks, “Is Santa Claus real?”

Chances are, your child (like mine) may never come right out and ask. More often, children begin questioning the validity of Santa and look for clues to confirm their suspicions. Psychologists say this is another indicator of normal cognitive and emotional development.

Yes, you could come right out and admit it’s you who’s been eating the cookies and carrots they’ve left out for Santa and his reindeer all these years, or you can do what this Mom did and explain that while Santa Claus himself is not a living man (I mean, really kids? The guy would be nearly 1,750 years old by now) what he represents is very real.

The important thing to remember is the story you’ve been telling them all these years about Santa has been for their benefit, not yours. If your child isn’t ready to hear the truth, don’t force it on them, but when they’re ready to give up the fantasy, follow their lead and let them.

Whenever that may be…

Dianne Duckett

Dianne Duckett is a 40-something mom of 2 pre-teen girls who manage to make her both proud and a little crazy every day. In her spare time she reads biographies and jogs. (Just kidding… she naps.)

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Reader Interactions

  1. Sherri Johnson says

    11 months ago

    I’m still reading this article but I have to tell you well in advance of completing it that I am you! everything that you’re talking about, the need to make it real for your child, you have no idea the measures I’ve gone to, to instill that belief in my daughter who is going to be 12 one week before Christmas this year . Same thing with the wrapping paper and the hand writing, I even told her that our jingle bell only those who believe can hear it of course she was younger when I used to tell her this and I would ring it and she’s like mommy I can hear it and I said there you go because he’s real. I’m gonna finish reading the article now because I’m interested to see how this ends up. I am really going back-and-forth and battling this demon in my head about whether she should know by now or not and it really breaks my heart!

  2. Maura says

    12 months ago

    It would take a LOT for me to ruin the magic of Christmas! I’m waiting until my 11 y/o comes to me and tells me clearly that she doesn’t believe in Santa. In reality, Santa Claus is real but his name is Saint Nicholas and well, he was born 1,750 years ago… and obviously he is dead, so we will carry on his selflessness. Strangely, I was really mad when my parents told me, because I thought that they were ‘hypnotizing me into being well-behaved’, and that they made me work myself up in order to get a gift in opposition to coal.

    I really hope my kids don’t think that. When I started using common sense and realizing Santa wasn’t a living man, I really thought that they weren’t telling me so that I could keep the good behavior up for years. But I kept my disbelief a secret for awhile, because I thought I would get less presents and treats. Plus, I couldn’t imagine how a Christmas without Santa would be.

    My parents really had the ‘undercover Santa’ part down when I was a kid. They basically had a whole closet for Santa’s wrapping paper. When I found it at about age 6 or 7, they told me that Santa didn’t have his own wrapping paper so they left some out for him. Of course, this really did seem believable. And Santa’s handwriting was ABSOLUTELY nothing like my mum’s or my dad’s. In fact, it looked really magical, like real Santa Claus handwriting. So she made that really believable, too. She made it so believable that I believed until about age 13. Then again, most of my friends also believed in Santa up until that point.

    So I really hope that my daughter and son kind of ask me the question at about 11-13 years old, it might be a bit old, but I want to cling on to the magic for as long as possible. I hope that they approach me calmly, somehow pretty sure of the answer, and are not heartbroken of the truth, because if they are, I will lie in bed at night feeling mostly regret.

  3. ade says

    2 years ago

    my daugter is yurning 8 and goi g in 3rd grade my older sons was a lot mote odd a kid make a alot of innapropiate jokes all the time so idk how heres is gonna be

  4. boo says

    2 years ago

    Its possible she is worried about getting less presents. I know my brother claimed to believe in Santa much longer than he actually did for this reason. But it is possible she still believes especially if she is the oldest child. I would wonder though if all their friends dont believe how that has no impact on her questioning if it is real or not. Not to say that this should be the way it is but kids at that age are often influenced by their friends a lot and will sometimes question things because others have brought it up. I dont think she is delayed or having developmental issues she may just not want to grow up as fast. around 12 a lot of things start to change in life and while, I personally didn’t use belief in santa as way I did hold on to other things longer than maybe I should have as way to not feel rushed into become something I didn’t feel ready for, if that makes any sense.

  5. LC says

    3 years ago

    I believed until I was 12. I believed in a lot of things at that age. The first Christmas I no longer believed, I got to help set the stage of belief for my little sister. I remember asking my mom if Santa Claus really existed, and she told me that I should believe whatever I wanted to believe. She also told me how he was the spirit of Christmas and how he’d always represent it. I have very fond memories of those times.

  6. Stacey says

    3 years ago

    I am in the same position. Did you end up telling your daughter and if so, how did she react?

    • Dianne Duckett says

      1 year ago

      No way! Like many of the other people who commented here, I held on to the magic for as long as I possibly could. She finally fessed up one day and said she’s known for a while but didn’t want to say anything because she thought I’D be sad!

  7. Joy says

    3 years ago

    My son just turned 11. Does he still believe? I believe he does. He is in advanced math, above average on all of his testing scores, and still plays with legos and beyblades. Would I tell him? Absolutely not. For what? I know he is in no way developmentally delayed. It’s like kids who sucks their thumbs or take a long time to potty train. They’re most certainly not going to get married sucking their thumb or in diapers.

    I try to keep the magic for as long as possible. I believed until I was 11 as well, and my brother believed until 12. I honestly believe it has everything to do with what type of neighborhood you live in as well. How does Amazon deliver millions of gifts in one day? I mean, I know this is completely different, and when I lived in a home that lacked a fireplace, my children assumed he went through the front door. Now am I 100% he still believes? No. But he has never questioned, and still has this innocence.

    With all the things we have to worry about on a daily basis, due to our children, I always believe this panic about when to tell your kids is absolutely ridiculous. You just don’t. Trust me, they will figure it out. All of my memories from Childhood involve the holidays. Was I upset when I found out? Yes, but I got over it. I am my mother’s daughter. Till this day, there is never a present under the tree prior to Christmas morning. It is tradition that the presents appear late at night on Christmas Eve.

    My older son and daughter believed until about 10/11 as well. My daughter just graduated from one of the top Universities in the US, and my son just graduated high school. They are great young adults, and I know they will make Christmas magical for their children one day.

    Nowadays, children grow up way too fast. Why any parent would want to ruin the magic of Christmas, is beyond me. This is something I can never wrap my head around. Some parents have a need to tell their children because they want them to know “they used their money for the presents”. This in my opinion, is so incredibly selfish and ridiculous. Why do you feel the need to take credit.

    I am in my 40’s and I still believe in the magic of Christmas and always will. I will do the same for my grandchildren. I don’t know one child who was emotionally damaged from finding out there isn’t a Santa. But for the parents who complain about the Elf on the Shelf, because the whole 30 seconds it takes to move him is too difficult, I just will never understand.

    These years go by so fast. Everyone speaks of the firsts all the time, the first step, the first words, etc. but the sad reality is the “lasts”. The last time you pick your child up, the last time they sleep in your bed, the last time you buy a toy for your child. . . I believe a child should continue being a child for as long as they want. Parents are in such a rush, and one day the crushing reality will be you will be in a clean quiet home and your children will be grown and away.

    Worry about raising children who care for others, and who don’t bully, who are respectful and who just love to live life. Not whether or not to tell them if Santa is real. . . Just my two cents. . .

  8. Joy says

    3 years ago

    My son just turned 11. Does he still believe? I believe he does. He is in advanced math, above average on all of his testing scores, and still plays with legos and beyblades. Would I tell him? Absolutely not. For what? I know he is in no way developmentally delayed. It’s like kids who sucks their thumbs or take a long time to potty train. They’re most certainly not going to get married sucking their thumb or in diapers.

    I try to keep the magic for as long as possible. I believed until I was 11 as well, and my brother believed until 12. I honestly believe it has everything to do with what type of neighborhood you live in as well. How does Amazon deliver millions of gifts in one day? I mean, I know this is completely different, and when I lived in a home that lacked a fireplace, my children assumed he went through the front door. Now am I 100% he still believes? No. But he has never questioned, and still has this innocence.

    With all the things we have to worry about on a daily basis, due to our children, I always believe this panic about when to tell your kids is absolutely ridiculous. You just don’t. Trust me, they will figure it out. All of my memories from Childhood involve the holidays. Was I upset when I found out? Yes, but I got over it. I am my mother’s daughter. Till this day, there is never a present under the tree prior to Christmas morning. It is tradition that the presents appear late at night on Christmas Eve.

    My older son and daughter believed until about 10/11 as well. My daughter just graduated from one of the top Universities in the US, and my son just graduated high school. They are great young adults, and I know they will make Christmas magical for their children one day.

    Nowadays, children grow up way too fast. Why any parent would want to ruin the magic of Christmas, is beyond me. This is something I can never wrap my head around. Some parents have a need to tell their children because they want them to know “they used their money for the presents”. This in my opinion, is so incredibly selfish and ridiculous. Why do you feel the need to take credit.

    I am in my 40’s and I still believe in the magic of Christmas and always will. I will do the same for my grandchildren. I don’t know one child who was emotionally damaged from finding out their isn’t a Santa. But for the parents who complain about the Elf on the Shelf, because the whole 30 seconds it takes to move him is too difficult, I just will never understand.

    These years go by so fast. Everyone speaks of the firsts all the time, the first step, the first words, etc. but the sad reality is the “lasts”. The last time you pick your child up, the last time they sleep in your bed, the last time you buy a toy for your child. . . I believe a child should continue being a child for as long as they want. Parents are in such a rush, and one day the crushing reality will be you will be in a clean quiet home and your children will be grown and away.

    Worry about raising children who care for others, and who don’t bully, who are respectful and who just love to live life. Not whether or not to tell them if Santa is real. . . Just my two cents. . .

  9. Priscila DeBarros says

    3 years ago

    My daughter is 11 and she is also the only one in her class that believe. But some kids are cruel and keep making fun of her. I don’t want to tell her, I think it’s so innocent that she still believes, but I don’t want her friends to make fun of her either.

  10. Kathleen says

    4 years ago

    My daughter still believes at 11. It’s a magical time of year. I think we all try to believe a little.

    • Kelli says

      3 years ago

      Mine is 11 also and believes even when her best friends don’t and I’m not blowing the whistle! If she’s not ready I’m good with it. She’s smart creative and a g treat kid so if she’s not ready we will go until she is.

  11. Johanna says

    4 years ago

    Great article.. very entertaining and at the same time enlightening. Thank you!

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