This weekend, I received a question from a mom whose daughter will be starting middle school tomorrow. In case this, or similar worries are on your mind, I thought I’d share our exchange.
My daughter starts middle school on Monday. She seems to be fine. My question/issue is that her innocence is about to be stripped away. She still believes in Santa, tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, etc. She loves the movie Frozen and all things Disney. Do I break the news to her about Santa and the others before she gets made fun of? I just don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m doing her a major injustice by not telling her about these things. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
Dear Worried Mom,
I’ve given your question a lot of thought and I even polled my kids (ages 12 and 14) for their perspective. They felt very strongly that you need to tell her. If it comes out in front of a group that she still believes in Santa or other holiday characters, they feel it will be a bad outcome and could follow her for a long time.
I weighed that against the other outcome of you upsetting her with this news. While I want to protect her from that, I think we can help work around it by making this conversation about a rite of passage rather than one about protection. So, instead of saying, “I need to tell you something before it upsets you at school” you would say “Now that you’re in middle school, you’ve reached the age when parents have a special talk with their kids. As you get older, you get to become part of more adult traditions and I need to tell you about some of the traditions you believed in as a little girl and how your role now is becoming that of a young adult.” If she has younger siblings or cousins, let her partake in the magic by being part of the other side.
I think she’ll find lots of girls who still like Disney and Frozen, etc. I wouldn’t worry about that a bit. It’s just probably time for the other stuff to be revealed to her. As much as you can make it an honor that she’s reached this point, I think it will help. When my kids found out, I told them Santa would still make a special stop for them any Christmas they wanted! They still ask for a few gifts to come from Santa under the tree, even though they know they’re from me.
I really doubt this will come up in the first week of school so I think you have time to let her get in and get acclimated. But I would have the talk before all the holiday buzz begins and we know with commercialization, that seems to happen earlier every year.
And for further comfort, know that kids who hang onto childhood longer seem to perform better as adults, according to a recent study of “cool kids” in middle school published in the Journal of Child Development.
I hope this helps. Wishing you a great start to middle school!