Is Your Child Scared of Santa? Four Tips to Help Calm Their Fears

santa-mom-and-childAll you want for Christmas is a picture-perfect photo of your child sitting on Santa’s lap to share with the world on social media, holiday cards and texts to grandparents.

Unfortunately, your child won’t set foot near the bearded bearer of gifts.

Jennifer Snyder, MD, a pediatrician with Memorial Physician Services, is a mom of a 3-year-old and a 16-month-old. She understands parents’ enthusiasm for holiday pictures, but as a physician, she also recognizes how some children experience anxiety over the much heralded meeting.

“Keep in mind, children might be afraid of Santa for a multitude of reasons—his beard, clothing, voice, size,” Snyder said. “Fears of Santa are normal in the roughly 1-6 year age bracket, so don’t be concerned something is wrong with your child’s development.”

Dr. Snyder shares some tips to remember before getting in line to meet Santa:

• Familiarize your child with Santa by reading books or watching movies that project him in a positive light. Make a wish list for Santa and take it to the mailbox. The more you talk about Santa, the more he will become a comfortable character.

• Do a “trial run.” Go to the mall one day and walk by Santa. Let your kids see other children on his lap. Talk with them about who Santa is without any pressure for the child to sit on his lap that day.

• Take one for the team, and offer to sit on Santa’s lap first to show your kids it is OK. Not only will it be a fun photo op, but it may help reassure your children and lighten the mood.

• Bottom line: Never punish or make your child feel bad if they are afraid of Santa. Remember, this is a developmental stage they will eventually outgrow, and all children need to maintain an element of “stranger danger” in order to ensure their safety.

snyder-jennifer-md Jennifer Snyder, MD,received her medical degree from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. She completed her residency at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio, and is board certified in pediatrics. Dr. Snyder is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in cell and structural biology. Before moving back to Springfield, Dr. Snyder practiced in Akron for two years.