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For most children, having a photo taken with Santa is all part of Christmas holiday fun. However, some young children find this outing to be a frightening experience.
Robyn Fallshaw, child psychologist at Kids First Children’s Services in Sydney’s northern beaches, explains why it’s not uncommon for young children to be scared of Santa….
“Children’s natural sense of self-preservation often kicks in when they are forced to sit next to a man they’ve never met who has a bushy white beard and wears a strange red costume,” Robyn says.
“It’s ironic that we teach our children about ‘stranger danger’ only to do a back flip at Christmas time, cajoling them into telling secrets to an unfamiliar person so that we can get a photo to put in our album.”
According to Robyn, preparation for a visit to Santa can make it more successful for children and parents.
5 tips to make a visit to Santa fun
1. Talk to your children about what is likely to happen during their visit with Santa
When children know what to expect when they meet the man in the red suit it is easier for them to cope with their anxiety. Explain what will happen when they meet Santa and assure them that you will be there to support them.
2. Get help from an older child
Many children learn from watching others, so encourage your frightened child to watch from a distance as an older sibling or friend sits with Santa. Once your littlie sees that visiting Santa is actually something fun, your child may be want to participate as well.
3. Get familiar with Santa beforehand
Before you take your child to a crowded shopping centre to see a strange man in a red suit, tell him/her a story about Santa so he/she is familiar with this character and sees him as friendly and jolly instead of someone who is new and potentially scary. Story books, videos and even online representations of Santa may also help your child be better prepared for their own visit.
4. Take it slowly
When you take your child to visit Santa, start far away and gradually encourage your child to get closer as he or she becomes more comfortable. You may have to do two or three ‘fly bys’ past Santa before your child actually has the courage to approach. This is perfectly normal!
5. If it’s not going to happen – there’s always next year!
If all else fails, let it go. It’s perfectly normal for young children to be afraid of Santa, as well as other costumed characters. Most children eventually outgrow their fear of Santa and there are other things that you can do to record the season. Try taking a photo in front of your Christmas tree instead. Your child will be more comfortable and you will still have a lovely memento to keep and send to grandparents and friends.
Concerned about your child’s anxiety?
If your child seems to be more anxious than his or her peers, a Child Psychologist may be able to help.
Kids First’s Child Psychologists are experienced professionals and are parents themselves. They have helped many children learn to overcome their fears and worked with hundreds of parents so that the right support strategies can be put in place at home and school.
Contact Kids First Children’s Services in Brookvale on (02) 9938 5419 to make an appointment with one of our friendly Child Psychologists.