We’re coming up to the most magical time of year, but how do you deal with your pre-teen child who feels too grown up for Santa and all your family Christmas traditions?

For some parents, when their child stops believe in Santa it can feel like the end of their kid’s childhood.

Mark Thomas, Leicester-based IT project manager and dad to an eleven-year-old son, is one of them.

He said: “We had so many lovely traditions that he just isn’t interested in anymore. It feels like he’s moved on and is almost embarrassed if we remind him. It’s a shame as Christmas was such an important time for us to spend together as a family. Now if we ask him to write to Santa or put cookies out he just says ‘Dad – Santa’s not real!’

“We’d have so much fun setting the Elf up in crazy situations just to see the look on his face in the morning or decorating a gingerbread house together. He’s our only child so it’s sad that we can’t enjoy a magical Christmas anymore.”

Feeling a sense of loss is normal

We spoke to our therapists to offer advice on how to manage this shift; both for the child and the parent.

Our member Heidi Soholt said: “Every childhood developmental milestone is characterised by gains and losses – while you celebrate your child’s achievements and progress, there can be simultaneous feelings of loss – the end of a precious stage that cannot be regained.

“Your ‘baby’ no longer believes in fantasy and magic, they are asking awkward questions, becoming increasingly independent and more exposed to ideas and beliefs from outside the immediate family. This can be challenging for parents; a transitional time for both the child and the adult.”

It's natural for kids to ask questions 

Susie Pinchin, also a BACP member, says parents can feel upset when their kids no longer believe in Santa.

“The years when they do believe let’s our inner child out and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and seeing the wonder and innocence in them as their excitement builds.

“However, it’s natural for kids to start to question Santa and have doubts about the big man. It’s ok to grieve the loss of this innocent stage and want to try to prolong it as long as possible,” She adds.

If your child is starting to question if Santa is real, Susie says not to worry about the right or wrong way to reveal the truth. “It depends on the child’s age and their maturity as well as the way the doubts crept in for them.” says Susie “Usually, they’ll bring up the subject of whether Santa is real. If they start asking questions – ask them what do they think? You may find that you still have some mileage in keeping the magic of belief alive for another year or there may be the realisation that this is now the time for honesty.”

Reassure your child

Heidi also says to remember that your child may also be feeling a sense of loss and sadness, along with concerns about how Christmas will be, now that Santa is out of the equation.

“Reassure your child that Christmas can still be magical, special and fun, and that knowing the truth about Santa doesn’t mean no presents!” says Heidi “Maybe now is the time to start new traditions and an opportunity to try new things now your child is older. You could try making decorations, wrapping gifts or shopping for grandparents together.

“Just remember however emotional you feel about your child’s newfound understanding about Santa this is an important and positive milestone and a sign of healthy and normal development.”