Aging Santa

By Sharon Naylor

October 8, 2015 5 min read

When your kids were little, they glowed with the anticipation of Santa's arrival, perhaps sitting with glee on Santa's knee for mall photos. Now that your child is a bit older, there's a different feel to the holidays as your child's sense of wonder about Santa Claus ... changes. How do you keep Santa in your holiday celebrations when your child doesn't have that same sense of belief?

They key is to help your child's appreciation of Santa evolve into an appreciation for what Santa represents: joy, a sense of giving, family togetherness and kindness. Sit down with your child during the preholiday weeks to teach your child the meaning of Christmas; this spirit can then stay in his or her heart all year long. You can list out the values that you personally think Santa represents, or ask your child to list the values for him or herself. Then take each value, such as "a sense of giving," and have the child list ways that he or she can exemplify that value. For instance, your child may think of bringing holiday gifts to a children's hospital or nursing home, or collecting their outgrown toys to donate to charity, all in the Santa-inspired sense of giving.

Here are some values to inspire you:

*Kindness

Create a holiday tradition of leaving complimentary notes for members of your family; your child can also do something kind for a sibling, parent, neighbor or friend.

*Family Togetherness

Your child is old enough to participate in family holiday gatherings, such as Christmas Eve dinner. Your child might help create the dinner menu or help design place cards. He or she might make a playlist of holiday season songs to play during the festivities.

*Joy

Encourage your child to write in a holiday joy journal, listing out all the things he or she is grateful for, or what brought joy that day. The journal might also be a great place for your child to list out how he or she brought joy to someone else that day.

*A Sense of Giving

This season, your child can take on the responsibility of choosing gifts for each member of the family, thinking about what each person might like, shopping with you, and wrapping the presents. In the past, you might have sent holiday gifts from your family as a whole, but this new era creates an opportunity for your child to learn the art and value of giving to others. Presents from your child don't need to break the bank; they can be dollar-store selections that your child has selected for each recipient on his or her list. At present-giving time, your child sees the recipient's joy.

Debby Mayne, etiquette expert at About.com says, "Christmas is one of the most important celebrations for Christians around the world, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Between the crowded shopping malls and people's expectations, we all run the risk of feeling let down, which can lead to tension and bad behavior. Avoid letting this happen by taking breaks to think about what the holiday is truly about." As your child works on his or her list of what Santa represents and how he or she can bring these values to life, you may do the same, which can reduce your holiday stress and tension.

In addition to gift giving, your child can join in on the Santa decor traditions of your home, buying or making holiday ornaments and decorations -- and as double-duty, these may become gifts for others!

If your child resists anything Santa-related when his or her belief system changes, point to the child's role models who embrace Santa as part of their holidays. In addition to the examples set by grandparents and cherished aunts and uncles, the child may be influenced by his or her favorite musical artists. Point out holiday albums of your child's favorite performers and tap into pop culture with viewings of animated holiday specials and movies like "Elf" or "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that show Santa as benevolent. Making it OK to appreciate Santa's lessons and image can inspire your child in a positive way.

Mayne also recommends finishing this transition with a good etiquette lesson: to send thank-you notes for all gifts received, complete with personalized messages written by your child.

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