As soon as the season for holiday cards and Christmas greetings comes around, your mailbox is bound to be bombarded by at least one photo of a child screaming on Santa's lap. Most parents are worried about their baby or young child being terrified of the big man in red, but according to occupational therapist Mandy Seyfang, fearing Santa is actually a good thing.
Seyfang (from the Department of Education and Childhood Development in Australia) notes that when children start to show that they are afraid of Santa, it simply means that they are beginning to develop emotional intelligence and that they understand the concept of "stranger danger".
This stage of development generally begins at age 2 and continues on through age 7. A trainee psychologist shared with Mirror Online that Santa is not only a stranger but one who has power over children and the ability to essentially ruin a holiday for a child if he sees it fit. There is also the added eery dimension that he knows about every kid's behavior throughout the year, and that any naughty business is going to be punished.
View this post on Instagram
We saw Santa today!! 🎅🏻 always a magical experience 😉 ✨. Let’s take a trip down Santa Claus lane for the last 5 years shall we... . Do your kids love or hate Santa??? . #santaphotos #santapictures #isitworthit #ibelieveinsantaclaus #santaclaus #funnypictures #momlife #mommyblogger #momof3
Of course, not every child is going to be afraid of Santa. The development of emotional intelligence happens at different ages for every child. It's also certainly possible that some children will never fear Santa because they're so excited to share their wishlist and caught up in the holiday spirit.
Thankfully, for those little ones who would rather go to the dentist than sit on Santa's lap, there are a few tips that can make the annual mall photo shoot a little more bearable. Pediatrician Jennifer Snyder, M.D. shared some of her top tips with LiveWell Online.
She first noted that parents should try to portray Santa in a positive light as much as they can. It could be helpful to entirely omit the possibility that Santa won't come (or that he'll bring coal) if a child misbehaves. She also suggests "trial runs" of visiting Santa, where you and your family can simply watch other children visit at the mall. This way, children who are afraid can see other kids enjoying the experience. Parents can also go up with their children to sit with Santa so that they can comfort their little ones during the visit, and provide a familiar face should anything go awry.
At the end of the day, parents should never force their children to visit Santa if they're not comfortable. It can make the experience all the more traumatic, and ruin a child's perception of him for years to come. If you really want the classic holiday photo with your child cuddled up to the bearded gift-giver, maybe try your hand at Photoshop, or see if a family member would be so kind as to dress up in the red suit! Or, think of fun alternatives that could involve the whole family. Either way, remember, it's totally normal for your tot or child to be scared of Santa, but that doesn't mean that you can't make Christmas fun!
All featured image credit goes to Yummy Mummy Club Canada.