It’s that magical time of year!
The traditions and rites of passage that are so important to us as families include the annual visit to Santa Claus. We all want that perfect picture: our child runs into Santa’s arms, jumps onto his lap, and rattles off their wish list. Too often, it doesn’t work out that way.
Seeing the big, furry guy up close can be scary for kids of all ages – but especially for those under the age of 4. There are things you can do to prepare your child and, while there are no guarantees, get that magical picture of a happy child and the Jolly Old Elf.
You’ve probably read them stories and shown them picture books with Santa. That’s good! Talk about how he is in “real life”. How his beard might feel scratchy – so don’t touch!Tell them how he’ll be as tall as you. Describe the real Santa, not the picture book Santa.
Take it slowly! Approach from the back of the room or hall. Point to Santa and talk about him. Let them see the other kids sitting on Santa’s lap. Make it ok for the child to NOT sit on Santa’s lap. You can get a great picture with your child standing beside Santa.
Santa might offer a candy cane or toy. Make it ok to take candy from THIS stranger. It really is remarkable and understandable why children are told “don’t take candy from strangers.” Once that candy comes out, a lot of kids completely lower their defenses. In the case of Santa Claus, ok. But, remind them that’s only because you are there and say it’s ok.
Most experienced Santas are good with kids. They’re dads and granddads, so they know how to put a child at ease. Some are more entertainers, singing and acting Santas. They might make a great show, but don’t know how to handle the kids. Find that gentle Santa who can relate as a grandpa.
And if all else fails, take the “screaming child pic”. Those are good too.