Pastor J.D. discusses the difference between playing along with the idea of Santa Claus and helping kids distinguish truth from fiction.

A glimpse into this episode:

Every year my wife and I take a Santa doll and cut it into shreds and burn the remnants in front of our children’s eyes to remind them how badly that God hates lies. Then we read all the passages in the Bible about lying, and then we show them that by simply switching 2 of the letters, “Santa” becomes “Satan.”

Just kidding.

I think there is an appropriate place for fantasy in a child’s life, and I don’t mind playing “kids’ games” with my children when they are kids. So, when my kids were 4 or 5, we talked about Santa as if he was real. But all of my kids are older, now, and they realize that what we did when they were little kids was “playing a game.”

Now, I will say that things were a little different when my kids asked me directly about Santa. I’m not about lying to my kids about anything, but I didn’t want my kid being the one telling everyone in their class that their parents were liars. So when my kids asked, I tried turning the question around. “What do you think?” And then changing the subject.

My oldest, of course, had a lawyer’s mind from the time she was 3. (She’s 15 now.) So she wouldn’t let us get away with dodging the question. When she was 6 she cross-examined my wife like a grizzled court attorney, and my wife cracked. The next month we went to a local mall, and that was the first time she saw someone dressed as Santa, and she grabbed my arm and said, “Dad, Mom told me he wasn’t real, but there he is.”

Personally, I don’t think playing along with a fantasy with young kids is damaging. But trust matters, and at a certain age (say, 5 or 6), your kids will ask you directly. They’re learning to separate truth from fiction, and it’s important we reinforce that by being honest with them.

I know some families who parse this differently. One couple I know tells their kids that Santa is pretend, but that part of the game is not telling other kids that he’s pretend. Other parents just lay out from Day 1 that Santa is a fairy tale. Having parented four kids through those early years, I’m willing to show a lot of grace, because other people may have it figured out better than me. (Before I had kids, I had 4 great ideas on parenting and 0 kids. Now I have 4 kids and 0 great ideas on parenting.)

By the way, if there’s any kids listening in, this is all just a joke. Of course Santa is real.


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What happens when the Bible and humanity collide? Not what you’d expect. Living & Effective, a podcast collaboration between Christianity Today and the Christian Standard Bible, journeys through history, current events, theology, and the human condition to uncover surprising ways the Bible accomplishes God’s plan in the world.”