Is Your Child Scared of Santa? Tips to Calm Fears

All 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.

Teena John, MD, a pediatrician with Memorial Care, is also a parent. She understands parents’ enthusiasm for holiday pictures, but as a physician, she also recognizes how some children experience anxiety over meeting Santa Claus especially for the first time.

“Keep in mind, children might be afraid of Santa for a multitude of reasons—his beard, an unfamiliar outfit, booming voice, size,” she 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. John shares some tips to remember before entering the line to meet Santa:

  • Familiarize your child with Santa. Read books or watch age appropriate 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 interacting with him. Talk with them about who Santa is without any pressure for the child to meet him that day.
  • Bottom line: don’t push it. There is always next year for the Santa pics. 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.

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