Santa is an interesting character at our house. My preschoolers want to like him–after all, he brings cool gifts, doesn’t he? But the idea of a strange man shimmying down the chimney into their house while they’re asleep at night is worrisome. Last year, my oldest wanted to leave Santa a note on our front door asking him to leave the gifts on the porch rather than under the tree so that he wouldn’t come inside.
With my youngsters having all these reservations, you can see why photo ops with jolly old St. Nick are difficult. It took three separate trips to the mall last year before they worked up the courage to sit on his lap, and even then they weren’t quite sure.
I’m sort of on the fence about Santa myself. He’s certainly a magical part of my childhood memories, but as a parent, I don’t like using him as a disciplinary tool. Regardless of my feelings, I still feel obligated to participate in the ritual of snapping a pic of my precious peeps visiting him each Christmas.
There was a great article in the the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Parenting Early Years magazine about taking your child to meet the big guy for the first time. Try some of their tips (along with ones I’ve picked up from friends with older kids) to snap a memorable pic of your kids this year.
- Don’t paint a scary picture of Santa Claus. Standing in line to meet him last year, my then 2-year-old asked me countless times if Santa was “nice.” The article warns not to paint a scary picture of St. Nick by saying things to your kids like, “Don’t be afraid, Santa won’t hurt you.” “You’ve just introduced a possibility that may never have occurred to him,” says Jonathan Pochyly, Ph.D., of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Instead, talk about how fun it will be to visit Santa and show your child pictures of older kids they know sitting with him.
- Use the wait to your advantage. If there’s a line to see Santa, consider standing in it rather than wandering the mall until the crowd shrinks. If your child can watch other kids sitting with Santa, it may help her get over her own anxiety.
- Say cheese yourself. Instead of handing your kids off to the “elves” working the camera, walk with your kids to meet Santa. And even be prepared to smile for the camera yourself. Younger one might feel a little safer with Mom or Dad nearby.
- Take a lovey. If your child has a special blanket or stuffed animal, bring it along for the big visit. You’ll cherish the photo years later even more if your little guy is clinging to his brown bear.
- Give up. If your kid is the one arching his back and screaming to avoid sitting with Santa, who cares? Don’t force your child into a situation that is overly scary for him. Assure him that Santa will still come on Christmas Eve–and then drop it. It will be a funny story to tell later on.