Parents have asked me how to prevent their child fearing Santa when they visit him in the weeks ahead. Let me try to put the “ho, ho, hos” in those fearful “woe, woe, woes.”

Let’s face it: to a small child, Santa Claus can be overwhelming. Maybe it’s his size, his booming voice, his gloves, his bright red suit and big white beard… It may be that he is simply a stranger. Sitting on a stranger’s lap is not something any child should be eager to do. So for a small child, visiting Santa can be quite scary.

When it Comes to Santa, Practice Makes Perfect

Therefore the name of the game is to help your child overcome the fear with practice, practice, and more practice. 

First, ask your child to talk about why they are is afraid of Santa. Talk positively about Santa and the good things he does before you go to meet him. If you celebrate Christmas, have some Santa decorations up so your child can get used to what he looks like. 

Is your child is old enough to tell you what they want from Santa for Christmas? If so, that can give them something to talk about when they meet the big guy. 

A good idea is to have your child watch other children their age and size meet Santa. When your child sees those children smiling and enjoying their visit, your child may be ready to try as well. Another idea is for you to go first and get a picture with Santa. That may be all it takes. 

Don’t Force It

If your child is just not ready, don’t force it. Instead, respect your child’s fear, and acknowledge that it is hard to meet someone new. Reassure your child that they are safe around Santa. And remind them that you will be there, too. 

It’s not a good idea to do anything that would ruin the magic that is Santa at this young age. Even if you think it will make things easier in meeting him, hold back.

If your child overcomes the fear and has a successful visit with Santa, praise them. If not, don’t add to the stress by criticizing them or denying that their fear exists. 

Hopefully tips like these will not be scary when it comes to helping your child not fear a visit with Santa.   

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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