When Do Kids Stop Believing in Santa Claus?

I remember sitting in a row boat with my sister and our pseudo cousins when I was around 12.  It was winter, and it was cold out and I remember the frozen metal against my bum, the waves lapping at the rails of the tin boat and these 3 “olders” staring me down.

They were telling me I had to keep believing in Santa Claus. And I had to make the parents BELIEVE that I believed. If I stopped doing this, no one would get presents anymore.  I don’t know WHEN kids stop believing in Santa Claus, I just know that it was up to ME to keep the story alive.

Whether it was because of this threat of bodily harm (which there was) or because I loved the idea of believing, I was that kid who still got a present from Santa when I was a teenager.

As I got older the shine of Santa and Christmas morning seemed to fade.  There were still gifts to exchange, but the magic was gone.

And then babies came along. And babies grew into toddlers, and into preschoolers and the magic was stronger every year.  Christmas Eve was my most favourite night. Stockings stuffed, presents waiting and cookies and milk on the mantle.  Putting the kids to bed as they were filled with SO MUCH excitement brought me back to the days when I would look out the window wishing SO VERY hard to see Santa’s sleigh.

Believing is nice. It is beautiful and magical and fills your belly with happiness and wonder.
And then one of my babies turned into a tween.

For the last year we have been again wondering that age old question of “when do kids stop believing in Santa Claus” Is there a certain time when they should be told, or is it something that happens naturally?  Two years ago we actually had a questionable talk about it!

christmas on salt spring, gulf islands holiday

We were about to find out.

My daughter and I spent the day together last week and I was saying how exciting it was that Santa would be arriving to the island on the weekend.  I knew in the one look she gave me that things had changed for her this year. It was a look with a little bit of embarrassment, some sadness and even some pity for her poor old mom. She felt bad for bursting MY bubble of magic.

She told me, Mom, I know about Santa.

I tried to be confused by that and ask her “what on earth do you mean” until she gave me “that look” again and I realized the gig was up.

I looked at her, and I told her that I was sorry she knew, and that believing in Santa is one of the greatest joys I had.

And that is when she joined me on the adult side of the conversation.

She told me that as parents, we had done an amazing job of making Christmas magical.  She remembered hearing hoofs on the roof, and coming down the stairs and seeing the Santa gifts waiting.  She remembered fluff on the floor around the Easter baskets, and she thanked me.


She thanked me.  She thanked me for supporting this magic, and creating wonderful memories for her.

She thanked me and told me she loved our holidays, and that she thinks we did a really, really good job.

She. Thanked. Me.

And then she told me how excited she was to join us on Christmas Eve and stuff stockings for her brother and sister, and she asked if SHE could be the one to drink the milk and eat the cookies.

She said Santa Claus was magical, and she can’t wait to participate in MAKING the magic, since she now knows the secret.

So, this year things are a little bit different, and that is ok.  We are still counting down till Christmas, and we will still hang our stockings. But this year my eldest daughter will join us in creating new memories, ones she appreciates in a whole new way.  So, when do kids stop believing in Santa Claus? They stop believing when they are ready to, and all you can do is hope that the transition is a joyful one.


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