As adults we have the luxury of time, years of experience to reminisce on happy Christmas memories. Those exciting and magical eve’s waiting for Santa to arrive and awaking to a bulging stocking before running downstairs to see if he had left gifts under the tree. Santa Claus embodies the spirit of Christmas, a sense of innocence and adventure. For most children a visit to see Santa is a fun and magical time leading up to Christmas Eve but for what as adults we perceive as harmless fun, can in fact be a traumatic experience for some children.
So what should you do if your child is frightened of Santa Claus?
First of all stop and step back… really try to look at the situation from their perspective. For young children who are still developing an understanding of imagination and reality there is very little to compare this to, it is a common fear in children between the ages of 2-7 years. Santa as an omnipresent being is everywhere and sees everything. Let’s not forget the famous song ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’
Children are presented with a stranger in a red suit who is all seeing, all knowing… someone they can’t hide from! So it’s understandable that some children will find it all a little overwhelming and upsetting to start. Don’t give up on your dream of taking your child to see Santa and letting them relive the magic you once experienced. Most children outgrow those early fears of Santa but until they do, here are a few tips to help you through the festive period:
Don’t Force Them
If you know your child is afraid don’t use bribes or threats. It’s true… that perfect photographic shot is within reach, just a few gentle nudges forward. The question is at what cost? It’s important not to push your child until they are ready, or you run the risk of potentially causing psychological harm and further emotional stress.
Acknowledge Their Fear
Remember this is about putting your perspective to one side and seeing the situation from theirs. A grotto can be noisy, crowded and even the “Ho, Ho, Ho..” from Santa can be unsettling. Never mind the beard, suit, gloves and the fact you are asking them to sit on the lap of a stranger! Every child is unique and so are their fears.
It’s important to reassure them that it’s safe and everything is ok. Stranger anxiety develops in children around 6 months and is a natural and normal part of development. However, it’s also important to maintain a safe approach when it comes to strangers. Perhaps introducing the concept that they only talk to Santa when a trusted adult is with them.
Take it Slow
Talk about Santa, read stories about him and show them pictures. Visit Santa’s workshop/grotto a few times and allow your child to observe Santa from a distance that they are comfortable with, perhaps even wave to him and gradually move closer. This will enable them to become familiar with him and intrigued. If they have older siblings why not encourage them to watch while they visit with Santa. If/when they decide to get closer, don’t feel it necessary to force them to sit on Santa’s lap if you feel this is distressing them. Instead, encourage them to stand next to Santa and talk to him from a distance they are comfortable with.
Be patient and resist the urge to tell them Santa is not real. It’s likely this fear will dissipate on its own, so why not use the time to build your child’s trust.
Finally… if your child is still distressed, don’t force them to see Santa. Wait and try again next year!
Written by Nicole McKendry
#fearofsanta #childphobias #dundee #standrews #scotland #christmas
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