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Parents Face Tough Questions When Santa's Magic Fades
Date:12/25/2007

The best response to little skeptics? Simply listen, experts say

TUESDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Every Christmas season, there's that question parents dread.

"Is Santa Claus real?"

According to experts, beginning at age 5 or 6, children begin to wonder if the Jolly Old Gent with the reindeer isn't quite what he seems.

"They are beginning to ask a lot of questions, they start seeing the inconsistencies -- 'Hey, we don't have a chimney, how does Santa get in here?' or 'the Santa at one department store looks different than the Santa I saw over there,' " said Bruce Henderson, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C.

Worse still, some party-pooper sibling or school friend pulls the child aside to whisper, "Santa isn't real."

What to do? The best course of action when the Santa story begins to show some cracks is to simply listen to your child and take your cue from there, experts say.

"When a kid comes to you after school and says, 'Joey told me Santa's not real,' I always tell parents to then ask, 'So, what do you think?,' " said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center, in New York City.

Sometimes, he said, youngsters will jump to Mr. Claus' defense.

"If a kid says, 'Well, I think Santa is real,' then your response should be something like, 'Then he's just as real as he possibly can be,' " Hilfer said.

On the other hand, other -- often older -- children may admit that they are having serious doubts. In that scenario, there's a way to agree without completely ruining the magic of Santa and the season.

"You might say, 'This is a thing that parents and families do -- they like to play games and pretend just like kids do sometimes, and this is one of those games,' " Hilfer said. Explaining the intent behind Santa Claus -- the giving, joyous spirit behind the man -- allows k
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