The Mall is Scary Enough During Christmas – Introduce Santa to Your Child Before You Get There
If your toddler is like mine, they enter the mall all smiles and giggles awaiting the fun and treats ahead of them. But my first few encounters with the jolly old elf and my youngest daughters were anything but jolly.
The older of the two, was very excited and her smile absolutely beamed as she saw the reindeer and decorations at the mall. However, after our long wait in line, the smile faded as she approached the jolly old elf with his “tummy that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly” and chubby cheeks. Whether it was the beard or the hearty, “Ho HO HOOO! Merry Christmas!” I will never know, but she was frightened beyond belief. Screaming and running away for this happy old man in a red suit she screamed, “Mommyyyyyyyyy,” and threw herself into my arms. All efforts to have her visit with Santa were in vain. No amount of coaxing, candy or promises to sit on Santa’s lap with her failed. Personally, I am sure Santa was thrilled that I didn’t sit on his lap.
The following year the lines went all the way around the play area so we decided to move on to the main event itself, a visit and picture with Santa Claus. As we stood in line, photograph packages were thrust upon us, however, knowing what happened last year, I hesitated to commit to anything. Then it was our turn, the great man himself was in front of us. He looked at me as said, “Two?? At the same time?” As if this was something new to him. I placed the youngest of the two on his lap with him directing me, “Drop them and run Mom.” Sorry, Santa, this is not how this mom does things.
I may have hurt Santa’s feelings that year as I snatched my youngest out of his lap, cooing and cradling her fears away. She practically scrambles over my shoulder in an effort to get as far away from this scary creature as possible. This is the child that during Halloween laughed and giggled at all the costumes as I opened the door!
Third times a charm right? As we urge her to once again visit Santa by sitting on his lap, she exclaims, “No Sissy do!” Our poor 12 year old humored her sister by sitting on Santa’s lap in an effort to show exactly how safe and fun Santa can be. With candy cane in hand, finally, success! This year she allows Santa to hold her, the 12 year old is embarrassed beyond belief and the youngest says, “Momma, momma” and is thrilled that her torture is at an end. In a minute, our darling’s beatific smile appears and she exclaims, “Santa!” No, there is no picture of it, but maybe next year. After all, if I have to pay $25.00 for two 5×7 prints, I better have smiling faces.
Steps to Prepare Your Child for a Visit with Santa
I’ve learned from my mistakes and was over confident. Here are a few tips that can help you dispel the fear and frustration your child may feel towards this strange man with a great big beard and hearty laugh.
1. Start a couple of weeks ahead of time, read to your child Christmas books, pointing out Santa whenever possible.
2. Buy your own Santa hat. Where it around the house, when shopping (it’s acceptable, after all it’s the holiday season). You may look a little silly, but it will become something familiar and comfortable that your child has seen over and over. Then when they see it on Santa, although he is unfamiliar, the hat isn’t.
3. Watch DVD’s with Santa in them. Name Santa as you see him in the DVD. The Santa Clause and of course the old favorites of Rudolph, Santa is Coming to Town and any others you can find will help your child become accustomed to the unusual attire of Santa.
4. Make the Ho Ho Ho sounds. Sounds silly I know, but when reading the books to your child, act it out. Mom’s go deep and say it with gusto.
5. Go to the mall after nap and give them a snack first. Tired and hungry children will be unhappy no matter what. Get them happy before taking them to see Santa; you chances of success are much greater.
6. If your child is frightened, don’t push it. Who cares if you get that picture this year? Better to have a picture of your child smiling in the mall’s play area than to spend all that money on one of your child abjectly unhappy. She may just always stay that way if you force it. Allow your child to accept Santa in her own good time.
7. Sing Christmas carols with your child. The words alone give verbalization to images. Your child will become accustomed to the images they see and hear in your voice. No, a toddler probably does not understand the exact meaning of the word in many of the songs, but repetition is important. The more your child knows the more comfortable they are.
Familiarity is the key. Children are comfortable with what they know. The more they “know” Santa, from the costume, words and deeds you expose them to; the more comfortable that they are when they see the real thing. If your child remains uncomfortable, there are plenty of other opportunities to get picture throughout the holiday season with your child’s smiling face. It’s the smile that’s important, not the Santa.