I've been reading your blog for a while now and I think you may be just the person to help me with this question. My oldest is 7 and in 2nd grade. Last year this little s*^t (I mean precious little girl) in my son's class told everyone that there is no Santa. When she said that, in first grade, my son spoke up and said that there is one, he eats breakfast with him every year. (St. Nick's breakfast event) Anyway, I think over the past year the conversation has come up again and he has said to me, in front of our other children, that he knows that Santa, or The Tooth Fairy, or sometimes it's The Easter Bunny, etc... is really your parents. I try to quiet him when he brings it up and try to convince him otherwise because I feel like this is just WAY too young for him to not believe and it makes me very sad.
Here's my dilemma. Do I keep what I'm doing and risk that each time he brings it up, it puts thoughts into my 6 year old kindergartner, and their 3 younger sisters that cause them all to not believe at an early age. The benefit of this is maybe 7 year old will come around, maybe he's really not ready to let go of the beliefs but just trying to see how we react, so we keep him believing for just one more year. OR, do we take him aside, explain it all and tell him to Shut the F up already in front of the others(of course we would never say it that way). The sad part of this is we lose his innocence and wonder at Christmas. The good side is we can shelter the others from giving this up too soon.
SO..... if all that made sense, what would you do?
We weren't sure, as our firstborn approached the age when he could understand the Santa Claus myth, if we were going to introduce it or not: Paul grew up believing in Santa Claus, but my parents told me right away that it wasn't true (a minister and a Christian school teacher? they don't want to confuse children about the supernatural). I was instructed never---NEVER---to reveal this to other children (because you can't tell which kids still believe), and I didn't.
We started out telling Preschooler Rob about Santa Claus, but he is the sort of child who had better be a successful rich lawyer who gives his parents cruises for Christmas when he grows up or all this arguing is going to be even more annoying. He was immediately skeptical, and he was THREE. We lacked the strength of conviction, so we fumbled through a few questions about how Santa can get to all the houses in one night and then both of us were like, screw this. It was WAY too much work and we felt so foolish pretending to believe it. Also, we didn't like the idea that later we'd have to say, "Surprise! We've been totally lying to you for YEARS! That guy you love so much doesn't even EXIST! Merry Christmas!" We've instructed the kids very, very firmly to NEVER tell other children---even the fifth-grader gets reminded each year, just in case. They are wide-eyed about this sacred duty to protect others.
So, clearly, the Santa Claus story didn't work out at our house and I have no good answers. Does this mean I won't offer my baseless advice anyway? Of course not! I'm giving you all this background info, though, to demonstrate clearly that it would be better to give more weight to the advice of commenters who DO have actual experience with this.
It sounds to me as if your second grader already DOES know it's not true, and he is looking for your parental confirmation that he correctly understands the situation. Since he IS correct, and since his unconfirmed understanding is causing wobbles in the story for the rest of the family, I would vote for your plan of taking him aside, revealing the truth, and asking him to play along and not reveal what he knows to the others (or to kids at school).
If you think he may still WANT to believe, you could say to him tenderly and with a Significant Tone of Voice, "Do you really want me to tell you?" He may think it over and decide he WOULD rather participate in the belief for another year (and therefore stop questioning it in front of his siblings), but without you having to actively lie to a child who's asking to be told the truth---which is where I worry that the Santa Claus thing could start causing actual trust issues.
Now. Would some of you who know what you're talking about please take over?