One 10-year-old conveyed her disgust about discovering the Santa “lie” in the most hilarious way possible — by illustrating her feelings in a handwritten note.
Nicki Adams, mother to 10-year-old Belle in Maryland, posted to Facebook that her daughter had asked “point blank” about Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas. So, Adams decided to be honest and reveal what may be the greatest Christmas secret of all as her daughter inched closer to preteen age. Belle wrote a note in response that slammed her parents for their dishonesty and ended with a middle finger emoji that she had drawn herself. The note said, “You have no idea what you just did. I really tried to believe. Everyone told me it’s your parents… You lied to me about something I loved that broke my heart.”
Belle’s note may be funny and cute, but it’s also striking fear in the hearts of parents everywhere who just aren’t sure about letting their kids buy into the whole Santa scene — or letting them believe too long.
As silly as it sounds, most parents take this “age of Santa understanding” quite seriously. And just about every grown-up who was allowed to believe in Santa has their own personal account of how they found out the truth as a kid — ranging from naughty to nice. Many kids figured it out on their own without any middle finger emojis involved, while others felt they were allowed to believe for far too long, sometimes into the teenage years.
According to a 2014 Field Agent survey of 334 adults, Santa still reigns supreme for most families across the U.S. — 87 percent of households believe or have believed in Santa at one point. Families who fall into that 13 percent often shun Santa from the get-go for two specific reasons: religious beliefs or because parents don’t want to lie to their kids. (And there’s also the fact that one in 10 households does not celebrate Christmas, so Santa is not even on the table.)
But the majority rules for a reason. While most childcare experts would never suggest that it is OK to lie to your children, Santa presents the big exception far and wide. Dr. Matthew Lorber, a child psychiatrist at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, told Live Science that believing in Santa can be healthy when it supports imagination and creativity as a normal part of development.
Even with this great debate that wages on every Christmas season, the experts still haven’t come up with a perfect age to burst your kid’s Santa bubble. Most parents hope that their children will figure out the truth on their own, either by putting the pieces together or hearing it from a friend at school. The closest that psychologists have come to finding a magic number to end the Christmas magic was around the age of 5 — University of Texas psychologist Jacqueline Woolley discovered in her interviews of children that the Santa belief declined after 5 years old, a time when Tooth Fairy belief started to rise. As evidenced by the famous “Yes, Virginia” letterwritten in 1897 by 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon to The New York Sun, many parenting experts believe that kids start questioning Kris Kringle’s existence at the age of 8 or 9.
What the experts do agree on, however, is not whether believing in Santa is “right” or “wrong.” Just like any other parenting hurdle you’ll face, it’s all about how well you communicate with your kid. According to Adams, Belle was fine within a few minutes of writing her angry letter, after she and her mom had a heart-to-heart about how Santa represents the magic of Christmas. The rest of us can learn a thing or two from Adam’s approach: Sit down and talk with your child about the Santa truth when it comes out and don’t worry too much about it ruining their life.