Parenting: How to have a great visit with Santa Claus

Parenting: How to have a great visit with Santa Claus

Sharing the magical tradition of Santa Claus with our children is a very special joy of parenthood. We have great expectations that our child will have a wonderful and smooth visit with Santa Claus, which does not always happen.
Over the past 31 years, I have personally trained thousands of Professional Santas. We go to great lengths to be sure our Santas are prepared, understand the development of children as well as being patient and compassionate with any hesitant child. There are over 40 tools that a quality PROFESSIONAL Santa Claus should have and use, beyond patience and a soft friendly tone, to manage these delicate situations. It is 80% the Santa Claus' responsibility to help make it a relaxing and positively memorable experience for you and your children!

There are many effective, small things, you can do to be certain 
YOUR child has a marvelous visit with Santa Claus;
1. Take your child to see Santa Claus at "off-peak" hours (such as a weekday mornings) when there is less stress of waiting in long lines.

2. Be sure your child nap time or meal time does not coincide with your visit. If the child is hungry or cranky this can intensify any reactions.

3. Make a few passes by the Santa Claus area and wave to / warm up for the visit. "There is Santa Claus! He is very nice! Mommy/Daddy likes Santa! He has a soft red suit, isn't it pretty?" Watch your child's facial expressions to see when they give you the signal they are comfortable with Santa from a distance.

4. Make sure you are not rushed or distracted. Children will sense any "Let's hurry and get this over with" emotions.

5. Talk about Santa Claus as you wait to see him. "Santa is very kind... Santa loves toys... Santa lives at the North Pole... Keep it light, fun and positive. (Refrain from the; "Santa comes to check on you when you are sleeping... Santa knows if you've been naughty/nice... These comments can be misinterpreted by children as relatively creepy behavior and make them skeptical.)

6. Be cheerful and whimsical. Laugh and be sure YOU are having fun. This allows the child to feel safe and secure.

7. If your child hesitates when you arrive at Santa's chair, take a few steps back until the child's tension ceases. Wave at Santa. This may be all there is to the first visit. Since, children do not have the same concept of time as adults, you can walk away, do a short unrelated activity and come back to see Santa again. And again as needed to  make it a positive experience. You'll find your child will get a little closer each time you try. "That was fun! Wave good-bye, we'll come back again sometime soon to talk to Santa..."
Allow the child to get a bit closer each time on their own terms. Follow your child's lead. 

If the child is just not responding to this certain Santa Claus... go elsewhere to find a more amiable Santa.

8. Toddlers need to have a familiar face in sight to remain secure. A parent should be nearby. Perhaps mom/dad can sit next to Santa with baby on the parent's lap for a great photo. 3-4 year olds can watch mom/dad go up and sit and chat with Santa so they see it is fun, happy and most of all safe, BEFORE the child approaches confidently.

9. Santa in books and on TV or in videos is very different to the child than the big, red, furry real Santa. Trying to explain this is just like the Santa we read about in our book- is NOT the same thing as this big, strange guy at the mall. Focus on the setting and explain to the child why Santa Claus has bells or why there are elves here, or why Santa Claus is wearing a heavy winter suit and beard. Getting to understand these symbols of Christmas little at a time will help your child have the fullest experience possible.

10. Never force a child or allow untrained "elves/photographers" to simply hurl your child up onto Santa's lap. It should be about the EXPERIENCE- NOT THE PHOTO! A "crying" photo may be cute in years to come, but it is a very traumatic, frightening situation for your child. Don't let the photo elf force you into a photo! Find locations where you can take your own photo for FREE! (Larimer Square, Streets at Southglenn, Promenades at Centerra, Loveland Outlets...)

11. A GREAT Santa should have numerous ways to assist you in helping your child have a positive, calm and smooth encounter. If Santa has been trained properly, Santa will do most of "the work" to get your child up, onto his lap, confidently and without issue.

12. Allow your child to hold their favorite small toy or blanket for security. When the child has something they can control/have power over, they have some confidence in the unique situation. Take "binkies" out the split second before the photo is taken, then return them!

13. Keep sugary snacks, sodas and carbs to a minimum before going to see Santa. Use a wet wipe to clean up faces and fingers before visiting with Santa. Dress your child in blue or green or pink... anything but red!

14. Allow older siblings to go up to see Santa while the younger child watches the smiles and laughter for awhile. ASK the younger child IF they want to go up to see Santa. They may at first say "No" That is fine. Come back again once the child has had a chance to process the experience and listen to older children relating their fun experience.

15. Using bribes or scoldings only frustrates the situation of a hesitant child. Saying, "Well, then I guess Santa won't bring you anything if you don't go talk to him..." is a tactic that does not address to bonafide fears your child has.

16. If the child simply won't go see Santa today... Have them write a letter or cut out pictures of the toys they like and arrange to go back to just give it to Santa. Chances are, at this "letter delivery" visit, after they have given Santa their letter, (they have to approach to give it to him!) your child MAY be ready /willing, to go chat with Santa.

17. If you are in a Santa visitor line and there are a host of screaming, crying, fussy other visitors... Rather than catch the contagious wave of anxiety, I'd highly suggest if at all possible to get out of line and return when a happier guest list is awaiting. If everyone is crying, you'll want to pick a different time or setting or Santa!

18. DO NOT wait until the last few days before Christmas to go see Santa Claus! Most untrained Santas are burned out and as cranky as the children, stress levels for everyone are higher and rushing this beautiful experience is unfair to the child and diminishes your joy of sharing this magical tradition with your child. 

19. Children develop differently, even within the same family. If your daughter loved Santa Claus, your son may react differently at the same age. Allow your child to react, express his/her hesitation and move into the Santa experience at their own pace. You are NOT a bad parent and have done nothing wrong in raising your child if they react adversely to the situations with Santa Claus on the first few attempts to make contact. Don't get frustrated!

20. For best results, contact an established Professional Santa Claus firm, like American Events Sant-A-Grams, that will send a professionally trained & outfitted Santa Claus, that fits best with your needs, to your private home/group party. Discuss in detail what kind of Santa you would like and find out what Santa includes as activities and entertainment value as part of your visit. The children will be in a familiar setting. This greatly reduces their stress and increases everyone's enjoyment. When you get a great Santa Claus (with a verified national background check and trained with excellent presentation skills to entertain), your child(ren) will have a marvelous time! It is well worth the investment in sharing this wonderful tradition with your children, family and neighbors.

21. Be sure your selected Santa has cleared an intensive NATIONAL BACKGROUND CHECK, is INSURED and can tell your what the plans are should he be unable to appear as contracted? Is an equally talented, and experienced Santa available as guaranteed his "back-up," so your planned event is stress-free for YOU, too!

Susen Mesco
Professional Santas for Colorado & Beyond Since 1983!
American Events & Promotions, Denver, CO
Founder & Director of Professional Santa Claus School Denver 
Sant-A-Grams  SantFest On Tour 
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