Santa Claus is a magical part of Christmas, but telling a child the bittersweet truth about the cherished tradition can be another stress for parents during an already busy holiday season.

For years, many children look forward to presents from Santa — not questioning how a single man can deliver gifts around the world in a single evening. Or how he fits down a chimney. Or how he gets into a home without a chimney. Or how reindeer fly.

But at some point, kids start realizing the story doesn't add up. Parents and experts have debated for years about how to handle that stepping stone on the way to adulthood. Some wonder whether the story of Santa is good for kids at all.

Here's a look at some of the common advice to help you determine what's best for your child.

A third of Americans would rather do away with gift-giving than deal with their holiday expenses, survey says Should I tell my toddler about Santa?

While believing in Santa — and the eventual disappointing news that follows — is a right of passage for many children, some experts disagree on whether it's a good thing for a child's development.

In 2014, PBS summarized five reasons why parents shouldn't tell their kids to believe in Santa, according to author Tom Flynn. Among them: Parents lie to their kids when telling them about Santa, and the narrative can teach kids to be fearful. 

Some Christian writers have adopted a similar position, saying Santa detracts from the religious nature of Christmas, and Santa's mythical supernatural powers could cause confusion for children. Learning that Santa is a myth could inspire other religious doubts as well.

But other experts have used a similar line-of-thought to defend the Santa tradition. In 2014 University of Texas at Austin child psychology researcher Jacqueline Woolley wrote that parents should let their children believe in Santa because it helps them develop imagination as well as critical thinking skills.

"The kind of thinking involved in imagining how nine reindeer could fly through the sky carrying a heavy sleigh may well be the same kind of thinking required for imagining a solution to global warming or a way to cure a disease," she wrote.

Additionally, children who use evidence and logic to find out the truth about Santa may learn a valuable, positive lesson: "In the end, children are empowered by feeling that they have figured it out by themselves."

How old is too old to believe in Santa?

For parents who have decided to participate in the Santa tradition, experts have some advice on how to help kids learn the truth.

Miriam Liss, professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington and mother of a 12-year-old believer, said a parent can usually tell when a child is ready when they start asking these questions:

How can Santa get into the house without a chimney? How does he travel all over the world in only one night?

She said the best way to handle these questions is to answer them with more questions to gauge the child’s thinking:

What do you think? Do you think it’s possible?

“Kids who are ready will show that they’re ready,” Liss said. If they’re not ready for the truth, Liss continued, then they’ll come up with their own explanation to keep the magic alive.

One popular solution: Becoming Santa

Some parents have found a unique way to transform the Santa tradition — they claim this approach transforms potentially disappointing news into a positive learning experience.

A blog post that routinely goes viral at Christmastime provides another alternative to telling children the unvarnished truth about Santa: Teaching children to become like Santa.

The story's origins were traced in a 2016 Washington Post report to Leslie Rush, a high school history teacher from El Paso, Texas. She said the tale goes back to a family story from the Great Depression era.

The story says a mother decided to take her 7-year-old son for coffee to have the Santa talk after he started voicing his suspicions. 

She began telling her son how much he's matured this year and began listing the ways he showed empathetic behavior, such as considering people's feelings or doing good deeds. 

"In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus," the blog post read. 

The mother then explains that there are people who believe in Santa and there are people who become Santa. Children who become Santa must choose a person and give them something they really need, but the trick is that they can't know where the gift came from. 

"Being a Santa isn't about getting credit, you see. It's unselfish giving," the mother tells her son in her post. 

Why does such an approach to the Santa talk resonate with so many people? Rush told the Post she had an idea: “These days everything is so fast, I feel like it’s a way to make personal connections that get lost in this digital age. ... It also teaches about doing for others without getting credit. You have to be thoughtful, put yourself outside of yourself.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.