Expert Advice For Parents When Your Kid Tells Another About Santa

Many parents want to keep the magic of Christmas for as long as possible. But what happens if your little elf spills the beans about Santa to another child — or vice versa?

(Editor’s note: This story includes a frank discussion about Santa Claus. While we at know that Santa is absolutely real, we would not want to end up on the Naughty List by divulging any sensitive information to younger audiences. So please take care before reading this story.)

One mom confronted that situation when her 3-year-old daughter informed a classmate that Santa isn’t real.

“Do your other friends in school believe in Santa?” Nika Diwa of Houston, Texas asked her daughter ZiZi in a TikTok video with 1.5 million views captioned, “Help, what do I do?”

“Yes, ma’am — and I said he is not real,” the little girl answered.

“Well, you know what?” Diwa said, flustered. “Maybe because some kids believe in the magic of Santa, maybe we can keep it a special secret for them.”

“I’m not a liar,” ZiZi said firmly, adding, “I told the teacher I’m not a liar. Mommy, you said no lying.”

Parents let Diwa know their thoughts.

  • “Why does she know Santa isn’t real at her age?”
  • “Thank you for having this conversation with your little one but if someone ruined Santa for my son, I’d be sooooo upset!!”
  • “This is the most heartbreaking thing. Someone said this to my daughter recently and I have never been more hurt.”
  • “My younger cousin ruined it for me when I was 6. She was 3 and I was so hurt and sad and never really liked Christmas again.”

Another set of parents said the truth about Santa is certain.

  • “One thing about kids, they are very resilient. Her classmates might be upset in the beginning but kids just want gifts in the end.”
  • “Honesty is the best policy.”
  • “My kids don’t lie either.”

One person added, “A librarian asked my 8 yo what Santa was bringing for Christmas. My daughter was confused why a grownup still believes in that and broke the news to her.”

Diwa tells that ZiZi has her own theories about Santa.

“We never told her that Santa isn’t real,” she says. “Her beliefs are fluid — she likes Elf on the Shelf — and she believes that Santa is a man in the red suit and anyone who gives to others.”

Diwa tells that she never heard from the parents of her daughter’s classmate and a subsequent visit from Santa at ZiZi’s daycare went smoothly.

Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist and the author of “Mommy Burnout,” says children experience the truth about Santa depending on their personality, religious beliefs and even their birth order.

“Every child interprets the news differently — either wanting to know the truth or believe in magic longer,” Ziegler tells

If your child ‘ruins’ Santa for someone else

Say your child never believed in Santa to begin with or is the newfound recipient of earth-shattering information they must share; have a conversation as quickly as possible.

“Explain the difference between keeping secrets and telling lies,” says Ziegler. A lie is usually told with bad intentions; some secrets can be kept to respect family traditions.

Some kids resist playing along but parents should hold their ground, says Ziegler.

“We can teach kids that Santa is a topic best explained by parents, whose beliefs belong to them, and that this information is not theirs to share,” says Ziegler. “It’s a parent’s job when and how to break this news.”

“Another way to reframe this is by asking kids, ‘Does this story belong only to you or to everyone else?'” she says. “Reassure your child that silence doesn’t mean they have to believe as well.”

If someone else ‘ruins’ Santa for your kid

There are so many ways to answer the question: “Is Santa real?”

Some parents treat the discovery of Santa’s identity as a rite of passage in which kids perpetuate the magic for younger believers, let their children make their own beliefs or teach that Santa is everywhere and in everyone.

If you’re never had to debunk Santa — and someone else did the work for you — tread lightly.

“Don’t freak out,” cautions Ziegler. “You might respond to your child: ‘Oh, that’s what Brian says — but what do you believe? You have to trust your gut.'”

Kids stop believing in Santa at different times, according to a 2018 YouGov Direct Poll: 5% said they stopped believing at age 4 or younger; 37% between ages 5 and 8; 31% between ages 9 and 12; and 6% at age 13 or older.

The good-ish news: 75% of respondents claim they’ve never spoiled Santa for anyone else, with 17% pleading guilty.

If your child is upset by what they learned, talk up the magic of Christmas, says Ziegler.

“Say, ‘I’m sorry this feels so hurtful — you’re right that Santa isn’t a man who slides down our chimney. Parents are inspired to make magic on Christmas thanks to the story of St. Nicholas,” a Christian monk some believe lived in the third century.

And don’t feel too culpable.

“We all buy into belief systems from our exposure to princesses and superheroes,” says Ziegler. “We can know these figures aren’t real and still enjoy their magic through books, action figures and movies.” Santa, she says, is no different.

“We can still hold Santa in our hearts,” she says, “while celebrating each other.”