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Holiday Pictures: When Your Child Is Afraid Of Santa

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Over the past several weeks, I have been talking with all of my patients about what they want from Santa Claus, and asking them if they have been to sit on Santa’s lap. It is such fun to hear all of their responses, and it also keeps me abreast of the newest toy choices.

This is the best time of year to chat with the 2 – 5 year old set. They have those wonderful wide eyes and they are so cute when they start listing the things they want from Santa. It is such a wonderful age.

But the toddler set is a different story as they are just beginning to understand the concept of Santa, and are still a little unsure of that “jolly old man” with the long beard and white hair. How many parents have stood in long lines with their toddler who “has to sit on Santa’s lap” only to finally get to the front of the line and guess what, the cute, precious toddler suddenly does not want to sit on Santa’s lap!!  You must be kidding right?

It is a common occurrence, and looking back I have to laugh!  I, the mother (pediatrician) knew that it was at this age a child’s imagination begins to take shape and some concepts like Santa, sound great in books and stories, but in person… way!  Even armed with that knowledge, I dressed all of my boys in the cutest matching outfits and headed to the mall for that magical Christmas card picture with all three of them on Santa’s lap.  I know we stood in line for over 30 minutes, trying to entertain everyone, but at the same time trying to keep their outfits pristine.  That meant no food or drinks in line, just a mother and father entertaining and distracting the boys while we inched our way toward Santa.  It was going to be perfect.  A “Kodak Moment”.

Well, you probably guessed what happened next. We finally get to the front of the line and head for Santa’s lap.  The 6 year old and 4 year old  just hop right up  but the 1 year old starts to let out horrific cries as I try to put him in Santa’s lap with his brothers.  The perfect Christmas card photo is actually a picture of the older two boys, holding the 1 year old brother down while he screams and Santa looks like he is not sure what to do. At the time, I couldn’t believe that this was happening. We had been in line forever!  But the picture hanging on the wall is priceless, and will actually be a “Kodak Moment” forever.  It makes me smile to just look at those precious faces, with the perplexed Santa in the background.  Just like their first day of school pictures, the toddler screaming while sitting on Santa’s lap is priceless.

Remember, this is a common event. Santa is a stranger with a big beard, a red suit and a deep voice.  If your child doesn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap, even after telling you how excited they are, do not despair. The “crying with Santa picture” may become one of the family favorites.  Within a couple more years, a toddler’s imagination matures, and they realize that Santa’s lap is actually a great place to sit and discuss all of their many wishes, without any tears!

That’s your daily dose. We’ll chat again tomorrow!

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