Christmas Parenting Tips - Preparing your Child for a Stress-Free Visit with Santa Claus
By Susen Mesco, Denver, CO
Sharing the magical tradition of Santa Claus with our children is a very special joy of parenthood. We have great expectations that our child will have a wonderful and smooth visit with Santa Claus, which does not always happen.
Over the past 33 years, I have personally trained thousands of Professional Santas. We go to great lengths to be sure our Santas are prepared, understand the development of children as well as being patient and compassionate with any hesitant child. There are over 40 tools that a quality PROFESSIONAL Santa Claus should have and use, beyond patience and a soft friendly tone, to manage these delicate situations. It is 80% the Santa Claus' responsibility to help make it a relaxing and positively memorable experience for you and your children! But there are things YOU, as a parent can do to make this a magical moment, too!
There are many effective, small things, you can do to be certain
YOUR child has a marvelous, STRESS FREE visit with Santa Claus;
Doing an online VIDEO CHAT WITH SANTA CLAUS
is a great warm up before an actual in person visit
with the Big Guy in red! Check out
1. Take your child to see Santa Claus at "off-peak" hours (such as a weekday mornings) when there is less stress of waiting in long lines.
2. Be sure your child's nap time or meal time does not coincide with your visit. If the child is hungry or cranky this can intensify any reactions.
3. Make a few passes by the Santa Claus area and wave to Santa and the elves as a "warm up" for the visit. Be excited and say things like, "There is Santa Claus! He is very nice! Mommy/Daddy likes Santa! He has a soft red suit, isn't it pretty?" Watch your child's facial expressions to see when they give you the signal that they are comfortable with Santa from a distance.
4. Make sure your child is not rushed or distracted. Children will sense any "Let's-hurry-up-and-get-this-over-with" emotions. Pick a time when YOU can enjoy the experience too and go at your child's pace!
5. Talk about Santa Claus as you wait to see him. "Santa is very kind... Santa loves toys... Santa lives at the North Pole... Keep it light, fun and positive. (Refrain from the; "Santa comes to check on you when you are sleeping... Santa knows if you've been naughty/nice..." These comments can be misinterpreted by children as relatively creepy behavior and make them skeptical.)
6. Be cheerful and whimsical. Laugh and be sure YOU are having fun. This allows the child to feel safe and secure following YOUR lead.
7. If your child hesitates when you arrive at Santa's chair, take a few steps back until the child's tension ceases. Wave at Santa. This may be all there is to the first visit of this season. Since, children do not have the same concept of time as adults, you can walk away, do a short unrelated activity (window shop, for instance) and come back to see Santa again in 30 minutes. (Pick a Santa location that is not busy and the elves will allow you to come back to the front of the line on the second try.) You'll find your child will get a little closer each time you try. "That was fun! Wave good-bye, we'll come back again sometime soon to talk to Santa..." Allow the child to get a bit closer each time on their own terms. In this process you will follow your child's lead.
If the child is just not responding to this certain Santa Claus, or the photo elves are not cooperative... go elsewhere to find a more amiable Santa / Santa Photoland.
8. Toddlers need to have a familiar face in sight to remain secure. A parent should be nearby. Perhaps mom/dad can sit next to Santa, with baby on the parent's lap for a great photo. 3-4 year olds can watch mom/dad go up, hug Santa, sit near him and chat with Santa. Your child will see it is fun, happy and most of all SAFE, BEFORE the child approaches confidently. This may take another visit or two. Be patient! Nightmares aren't fun for anyone.
9. Santa in books and on TV or in videos are very different to your child than the big, red, furry, live Santa. Trying to explain to your child that, "THIS Santa is just like the Santa we read about in our book..."- is NOT the same thing as this big, strange guy at the mall, to your child! Focus on the setting and explain to the child why Santa Claus has bells or why there are elves here, or why Santa Claus is wearing a heavy winter suit and beard. Getting to understand these symbols of Christmas little at a time will help your child have the fullest experience possible.
10. Never force a child or allow impatient "elves/photographers" to simply hurl your child up onto Santa's lap. It should be about the YOUR CHILD'S EXPERIENCE- NOT THE PHOTO! A "crying" photo may be cute in years to come, but it is a very traumatic, frightening situation for your child. Don't let the photo elf force you into a photo! Find locations where you can take your own photo for FREE! (In Colorado; American Events' Santalands- Larimer Square, Streets at Southglenn, Promenades at Centerra, Loveland Outlets, Denver Zoo and Hudson Gardens, where American Events and the location management. encourage you to bring your camera and take your own photos!)
11. A GREAT Santa should have dozens of ways to assist you, in helping your child, have a positive, calm, meaningful and stress-free encounter. If Santa has been trained properly, Santa will do most of "the work" to get your child up, onto his lap, confidently and without issue.
12. Allow your child to hold their favorite small toy or blanket for security. When the child has something they can control/have power over, they have some confidence in the unique situation. Take "binkies" out the split second before the photo is taken, then return them!
13. Keep sugary snacks, sodas and carbs to a minimum before going to see Santa.
Use a wet wipe to clean up faces and fingers before visiting with Santa.
Dress your child in blue or green or pink... anything but red or white or yellow for a better photo!
14. Allow older siblings to go up to see Santa while your younger child watches the smiles and laughter for awhile. ASK the younger child IF they want to go up to see Santa. They may at first say "No" That is fine. This is your child's pace. Come back again once the child has had a chance to process the experience and listen to older children relating their fun experience.
15. Using bribes or scoldings only increases and frustrates the situation of a hesitant child. Saying, "Well, then I guess Santa won't bring you anything if you don't go talk to him..." is a useless tactic that does not address to bonafide fears your child has.
16. If the child simply won't go see Santa today... Have them write a letter or cut out pictures of the toys they like and arrange to go back to just give it to Santa. Chances are, at this "letter delivery visit", (they have to approach Santa to give the letter to him,) your child MAY be ready and finally willing, to go chat with Santa.
17. If you are in a Santa visitor line and there are a host of screaming, crying, fussy other visitors... Rather than catch the contagious wave of anxiety, get out of that line and return when a happier guest list is awaiting. Better yet, go to a happier Santa Photoland! If everyone is crying, you'll want to pick a different mall, time, setting or Santa operation!
18. DO NOT wait until the last few days before Christmas to go see Santa Claus! Most untrained Santas are as burned out and as cranky as the children, stress levels for everyone are higher and rushing this beautiful experience is unfair to the child. It also diminishes your joy of sharing this magical tradition with your child. (Santa usually leaves early on Christmas eve due to his busy delivery schedule!)
19. Children develop differently, even within the same family. If your daughter loved Santa Claus, your son may react differently at the same age. Allow your child to react, express his/her hesitation and move into the Santa experience at their own pace. You are NOT a bad parent and have done nothing wrong in raising your child, if they react adversely to the situations with Santa Claus on the first few attempts to make contact. Don't get frustrated!
20. BOOK A VIRTUAL VISIT to acquaint your child with the Santa they are going to see live. The best Pro Level Santas all offer this service. It will be well worth the small investment. Be with your child to help facilitate the visit so your child gets the most connection possible. To book a virtual visit- www.SantaVisitsUSA.com This website is owned by American Events.
21. For best results, contact an established Professional Santa Claus firm, like American Events Sant-A-Grams, that will send a professionally trained, outfitted, experienced Santa Claus, that fits best with your needs, to your private home/group party. Discuss in detail what kind of Santa you would like and find out what Santa includes as activities and entertainment value as part of your visit. At home or school, your children will be in a familiar setting. This greatly reduces their stress and increases everyone's enjoyment. When you get a great Santa Claus (with a verified national background check and trained with excellent presentation skills to entertain), your child(ren) will have a marvelous time! It is well worth the investment in sharing this wonderful tradition with your children, family and neighbors.
22. BEFORE you hire a Santa, be sure he has cleared an intensive NATIONAL BACKGROUND CHECK, is FULLY INSURED and can tell you who he has available as a "BACK-UP" Santa, of equal quality, should he be unable to appear as contracted? Is an equally talented, and experienced Santa guaranteed to be available as his "back-up," so your planned event is stress-free for YOU, too!
By Susen Mesco
Master Santa Claus Trainer Since 1983
Founder & Director of Professional Santa Claus School
President, American Events & Promotions
Call TODAY! 303-665-8280