Last year was my son’s first Christmas. He got to see Santa several times during the Christmas season as part of our holiday traditions. Santa appeared at my daughter’s school during a special breakfast; and he arrived at our house one night to ask the children what they wanted for the holiday.
When Santa came to our house, our son was just mesmerized! He just sat and stared. At least he didn’t cry! When our son saw Santa at the school breakfast, he was curious. He pulled his beard down and grabbed a handful of whiskers! Even Santa laughed at that one.
I assumed that this year my son would also enjoy his visit to Santa because he’d done so well last year. My assumptions were wrong. We took our son to see Santa and when he sat down on Santa’s lap, I saw his little chin start to quiver. The ladies in the elf costumes tried to re-direct him and I smiled my best smile. My son would look at me and smile and then turn to Santa and begin to cry.
The experienced elves were able to take a photo nevertheless and we were done. I went up on the platform, picked up my son, and told him he did a wonderful job. My son took one last look at Santa and began to cry.
In talking to other parents, I found out that “Santa phobias” are not that uncommon. It seems that many children go through a stage where they are frightened by characters in costume. This includes people in Santa costumes and people dressed up as amusement park characters. I’ve found that the best way to handle “Santa phobia” is to make the visit short and sweet. If my children were very scared, I just cut the visit short and left. I’ve seen parents trying to cajole their child who was screaming in fear to sit for a photo. In my mind, it’s not worth the emotional trauma to the child–there’s always next year!
Do you take your children to get their picture with Santa? How do you handle the situation if your child is scared?