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Time to Give Up Santa?

Your child comes off the bus demanding to know if you're Santa Claus -- and you'd love to get your hands on that wiseguy on the playground who made fun of him. But should you fess up? Maybe not: "Some kids will want to keep believing," says Joy Berry, a child-development specialist and author in Brooklyn. Before you give him an answer:

Gauge his age
Most 7-year-olds still buy the story about the big man in the red suit, but 9-year-olds, not so much. Let a littler guy hold on to the dream. Plus, he may even stick to his toy-cleanup routine because Santa can "see" him.

Prepare for tears
"There can be real sadness when a child has to give up this fantasy," says Berry. He may be sorry you told him, even if he said he wanted to know. 

Check the facts
Older kids may have a hunch that you're the one stuffing the stockings, but probe a bit to see how much they actually know. Ask something like "If there isn't a Santa, where do you suppose the gifts come from?" 

Keep the secret
Once the truth is out, insist that he not tell younger kids. Play up the fact that he's "in the know" -- a cool part of growing up.

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