In our hearts at least…

The holidays present the highs and lows – and the ultimate communication challenge that most parents will face, and that all of them dread: the moment when your child asks for the truth about Santa. At Point Taken, this situation strikes us as the ultimate communication skills challenge. It is emotionally charged, information is mis-balanced between the two parties, and the heart of the issue is trust, not the actual content of the communication. It’s not about Santa, as much as, “can I believe you?”

So what are the lessons from communication strategies that we can apply here?

First, get tight on two key things: who is your audience, and what is your goal? Our audience is our kids, who may know more than we think about the topic of Santa, so a good start to the conversation is to ask them what they have heard already about Santa. What do they think they know? This gives you a good starting point, and honors your child’s curiosity.

So, what’s the real goal here? It is probably not an informational presentation; we probably all want to convey the special beauty of a myth that encourages us to be generous, often anonymously, to both friends and strangers. We want to encourage our children to express that spirit and to be givers of Christmas joy, not just takers. So we have to convey the message in a more persuasive manner – to motivate our listeners to get involved, keep the secrets, and spread joy.

Now we get to the heart of the message, how do we share the fact that the world (and us, their parents) have been lying to them, without breaking a crucial trust bond? The best approach here is to create a story, one that pulls in all the known elements, and introduces the new elements for our audience.

One story I have heard recently, that combines elements beautifully:

When asked if I am Santa, my answer is No. I am not Santa – Santa is a myth that is bigger than me, that has existed for centuries. I am a helper for sure – yes, I buy and wrap the presents in our house, just as my parents did for me, and their parents did for them. But that alone does not make me Santa.

Santa is really a teacher. Santa teaches us to all to believe in important things we cannot see…..things like love, like our own potential, like the support of our family and friends. Santa has existed for generations, teaching children and adults the importance of giving to others and to sharing joy. Santa teaches us to honor our best instincts about others, and shows us how much we have to be grateful for. The Santa myth exists in many places in the world, with many different traditions – people everywhere have needed the same lessons taught.

Yes, the logistics of presents are taken on by parents, and we do it so we can help teach the important lessons of the season. But that alone does not make us Santa. And now that you know this, it’s your turn to help Santa too. Welcome to the club, sweetie – think about how much fun we can have helping Santa together!

The worst approaches include the stalling tactics often used – avoiding the conversation, or providing half-truths. We recommend more authentic and honest communication always, and never more so when a trust relationship is on the line.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season, filled with love and joy and peace.