There comes a point in their life when a kid starts to question the magic of the holidays—namely, the story of the Big Man up North. (Just to cover our bases, in case of glances over your shoulder as you read this piece, let's call him the Delivery Man from here on out.)
Whether it's from an older sibling, other kids at school or your kid's burgeoning logic, the seeds of doubt will get planted in your kids' mind and sooner or later they'll ask you: "Is the Delivery Man real?" or "Are you the Delivery Man?"
If you're reading this, that hopefully means you've still got time to figure out how exactly you want to handle the situation. Learning the truth about the Delivery Man can be a hard hit to a kid's trust. Here are three ways to soften the blow and keep the magic alive.
1. Follow your kid's lead Sometimes kids ask these questions because they're curious about murmurings at school, but they still want to believe. Don't blurt out the truth the second they ask the question, because they may not be able to handle it just yet. Try to figure out what made them curious about it and go from there. It's also a good idea to ask where they're at as well—use their response to inform your next move.
If you decide to stick with the story, there are ways to keep suspicions at bay. You can use a different wrapping paper for gifts from the Delivery Man and have a friend write his gift tags so the handwriting doesn't match yours. There are also a bunch of ways for your kid to talk to the Delivery Man through apps and video chat services. Using the common phrase, "If you believe in the Delivery Man, he believes in you," you can postpone the truth bomb until they're older and more ready to accept it. Plus, this gives kids something to say to peers at school who may try to tell them otherwise.
If you decide to tell them the truth, be prepared for an emotional response. Some kids may let the truth roll off their back, but others may take it hard. If they call you out for lying, apologize and make sure to acknowledge whatever emotions they are feeling. Let them know the history of the real Delivery Man and why you let them believe in the Delivery Man in the first place. Tell them he represents the spirit of the holiday and good traits your family values like kindness and generosity.
2. Start a new tradition of giving A Facebook post that outlines this altruistic strategy made its way around the Internet last Christmas. The main goal is to gently transition your kids from receiving from the Delivery Man to becoming Delivery People themselves.
When they start to question what they've been told up until now, take them out for a one-on-one and tell them this: "You sure have grown up an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too. Then point out 2-3 examples of empathetic behaviours they've had in the past year, such as considering people's feelings and doing good deeds. Then tell them, "In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Delivery Person."
Emphasize their readiness and how other kids who tell them there's no Delivery Man just aren't ready to become Delivery People yet. Using a conspiratorial tone as you let them in on the secret that the Delivery Man is all about giving people something they need without expecting praise or thanks. So now that your kid is ready to do their first Delivery Person job, have them pick someone to give a gift to and work with them to find and deliver the present. By giving them a new role and responsibility as the gifter rather than the giftee, your kid may be less inclined to feel like they've been betrayed.
You can find the full post here (we'd embed it but—spoiler alert—it uses the Delivery Man's real name and that's all kinds of risky).
3. The Delivery Man may not be real, but his magic is To answer the "Are you the Delivery Man?" question, you can tell them that you are the one that gets their presents and fills their stockings, but no, you are not the Delivery Man. Tell your kid that he's bigger than just one person (figuratively bigger, not physically), but he has lots of helpers, including you and your spouse, who help make Christmas happen for kids around the world.
You can tell them the Delivery Man's magic is that he teaches kids how to show love and to believe in something they can't see or touch. Let them know that love is the reason parents give their kids presents while letting the Delivery Man take all the credit, and love is a valuable part of what makes the holidays special for your family. The Delivery Man's magic also helps your kid learn to believe in the intangible, which is important for your kid's future. It spurs belief in one's self and paves the way for using one's imagination to visualize goals then turn them into reality. Remind your kid that there's strength in believing the impossible, and they shouldn't feel bad for having believed in the Delivery Man's story.
See how one mom explained this in a letter to her doubting daughter.
Learning the truth about the Delivery Man is a big transition for many kids, so be patient and make sure to put your kid's feelings first in any conversation on the topic. With patience, effort and a spirit of complicity, this milestone can bring you and your kids closer than ever.