Heads up: This article contains information about the existence of Santa and Elf On The Shelf.
The mortified person took to Mumsnet to ask if they were being unreasonable for thinking a 12-year-old wouldn’t believe in the magic of Christmas – particularly Elf On The Shelf – at that age.
For the uninitiated, Elf On The Shelf is a tradition where parents position toy elves in various scenes around the home each morning in the lead up to Christmas for their children to find. But some children believe the elves do this magical manoeuvring themselves.
“I feel really bad,” the teacher said. “I tutor a 12 year old girl. As we were packing up for the end of the lesson, she asked me about Christmas and if my DD [dear daughter] was excited, just general Christmas chit chat.
“I told her yes and that I might start the elves this year, but I don’t know if I’ll remember to change the silly thing they’re doing each morning etc.”
At this point the tutor said the student looked “a bit strange” and then asked if they were fake elves she was talking about, as her parents don’t move them.
The tutor said at this point the girl “looked a bit embarrassed” then asked if there are some elves that are real and some that are fake.
“It then dawned on me that she still believed in her parents doing the elves,” admitted the tutor, “and I felt really bad.”
They concluded: “Aibu [am I being unreasonable] to have assumed by 12 she wouldn’t believe in all that still?”
The question of when parents reveal the truth about Santa – or Elf On The Shelf, or the Tooth Fairy – is personal to each family and will depend on things such as a child’s level of curiosity and understanding. But studies suggest the average child stops believing by the age of eight.
Experts at Choosing Therapy also advise parents against leaving it until their child is much older. “It may be beneficial to initiate the conversation before middle school [age 11],” they suggest. “At this point, most of their peers will know the truth about Santa. Allowing them to continue to believe may impact them socially.”
Turns out, other people were pretty confused that lots of children thought it was real.
“I nearly fucked up this week because I didn’t know any child of any age thought it was real,” someone replied to the tutor’s confession. “We’ve never done it but I assumed all children were in on it.”
Another person replied: “I think by time they reach high school age they should know that it’s not real, same goes for Santa, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Surely you’re just asking for your kids to be picked on if they still believe in things like that at a certain age.”
Lots of other respondents shared anecdotes of children they know – aged 11 to 13 – who still believe in Santa. One said: “I do think children these days are believing in this sort of thing for a lot longer ... In dds [dear daughter’s] class (year 6) loads still believe in Father Christmas.”