Pro Santas Addressing Crisis and Tragedies with the Children

Pro Santas Addressing Crisis and Tragedies with the Children

Continuing Educations and Information 
for serious New and Veteran Professional Santas 
based upon level 1 core curriculum from 
Professional Santa Claus School (PSCS) of Denver Colorado. 
Founded in 1983 
to support great men with great hearts (Real Santas!)
 in maintaining our great tradition.
Advice to Santa Claus; Handling Conversations with Children about National Tragedies.

As a Santa Claus Trainer for 31 years, our local (Colorado) Santas have dealt with the shocking 1993 Santa Claus Death Threats and the heartbreaking 1999 Columbine Massacre, as the unexpected boot camp /  training grounds, for teaching our Santas and PSCS Santa students, how to effectively talk with the children about crisis and tragedies. Recently, we've have taken on children's questions about the Aurora Theater Shootings. (Children spend most of their time living in the REAL world... until they get to YOUR LAP!)

As the world changes, Santas nationwide have had to face scattered conversations about horrific events and disasters that grip the nation, such as; 911, Hurricane Katrina, Osama bin Laden, the Joplin, MS Tornado, Sandy Hook and sadly, this week, the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion…

In a child’s eyes, sometimes it seems as if Santa may be the only one who can “fix” these tragic realities of life. Prepare your Santa-self mentally! Honor and accept this grave responsibility. Address the children seriously at the developmental level of each child who brings their concern to Santa. (Santa! Ditch the “faerie dust” approach on these REAL, media-covered, heartbreaking crisis!)

Children are now exposed to a world where world news is instant, repetitive and overly abundant. Children see the news clips over and over like we do. (I agree, it is the parents who need to turn off the TV to avoid the horror and nightmares, but children are still “overexposed” to reality.) Even as adults, with a concrete point of reference, we are afraid, upset, have nightmares and worry. Imagine how scary this is for the children! Their small, safe worlds have just become global and ugly. Embrace the feelings of these little ones!

Questions WILL come up, so Santa needs to be prepared. Telling a child it is “OK” and “they are safe,” is a flagrant illusion on Santa’s part. Children today are much too savvy to buy that “cop out.” Even as adults we are sickened, shocked, afraid and don’t feel we have “the answers” or words to heal. We’d prefer to simply avoid the entire topic but we cannot leave children alone to struggle with their fears, especially IF they elect to bring their concerns to us in the Santa chair!

This situation in the chair will, of course, require that Santa immediately switch gear / mindset, from the typical holiday “candy cane” conversations. And it will mean that this interaction with the child will take a bit longer, effecting the pacing of your line for an extra minute or two. That’s just fine! This child NEEDS Santa now, and photos can just wait!
.Here are some suggestions for Professional Santas 

from Professional Santa Claus School of Denver, CO…

1.  AS SOON AS any crisis happens, expect questions to arise from the children, in your encounters, in the chair or out in public! Seriously think through the many potential questions Santa may receive, as well as Santa’s valid responses for each, and each age group (developmental stage.)

2. Take a big, deep breath. Clear and open your mind as you “switch gears.”

3. Give your prearranged hand signal to your Mrs. Claus, elf and or photographers, that this visit will need some extra time and attention from Santa.

4. LISTEN! Provide a safe and connected environment where the child can express themselves. Allow the child to fully express their thoughts and concerns to Santa, as best they can, at their age level, without interrupting them. LISTEN to what the child is truly saying…Are they afraid this will happen to them? Do they want to take action? Do they feel the loss of a friend who was affected by the tragedy? etc.

5. Briefly and sincerely, AS SANTA, dovetail into the specifics of what the child has told you. “Santa understands / agrees, this is a terrible thing… or Santa wants to stop this too!…” Or “Santa hurts too because Santa has special friends he has also lost in this tragedy,” etc.

6. Confirm to the child that it is OK to feel this way. Santa feels sad, upset, etc., too. Whatever the child is feeling, Santa feels too! (Because it’s true!)

7. Ask if the child has spoken to parents, teachers, friends, classroom or with school counselors about this? Ask what was discussed… Agree or add simple input from Santa’s universal perspective. (Santa may even wish to call the parent/s over after the child has left your lap, to cue the parents to discuss this topic with the child at home at the appropriate time.)

8. ASK… “Is there something you would like Santa to DO?”  See if there is some action, suggested by the child, that Santa can take, to help satisfy the child’s concern. Again, LISTEN! Children often come up with some amazing suggestions!

9. Respond appropriately (not just “I’ll fix it.”) Try something like;“Yes, Santa has his special elves helping bring food and blankets to the people who were in that earthquake, Mrs. Claus is making cookies, pies and cakes for them.” “Santa has his secret service elves looking for the bad guys…” etc.

10. ASK… “Would that be OK?,” to see if Santa’s suggestion/response has helped subside the child’s immediate fears or concerns.

11. Demonstrate that Santa has strength, hope, confidence, (whatever emotion is appropriate) to help calm the child’s fears or anxieties over this situation.

12. Understand that even Santa, cannot remedy world tragedies in a 3 minute encounter but, Santa CAN begin to calm the immediate fears and worries, brought to him by the little ones. That is Santa’s goal.

13. Give the child an age appropriate, positive ACTIVITY to perform, a special request from Santa, such as, “Tonight, instead of watching the news, for Santa, will you make 3 of your special cards or pictures and send them to  ________. Santa just loves the wonderful pictures you color. I like the colors you pick. Your pictures are SO beautiful! You are a very good artist!”

14. If the child still has worries or questions, repeat the process…LISTEN and RESPOND! Repeat until the child appears more calm and relaxed.

15. ALWAYS conclude your interaction on a positive note once you see the child has shown signs that their concerns/fears have subsided. “Santa knows you had something special you wanted for Christmas! Is it still the same present? Or have you decided upon something different?”

16. End each visit with a hug, high 5 or fist bump. AND “Santa loves you!” or “Santa is SO very proud of you!” Or other parting comment you typically use.

17. If required, call parents over to alert them of your Santa conversation with their child, so they may follow up with a more in depth family discussion.

18. IF you believe in a Higher Power, say a prayer, each time that Santa gets dressed, that Santa is filled with His inspirations, to address and respond to the concerns of the children, as each of them needs in your appearances today. Add another prayer that these tragic events stop happening!

Leave us your comments, ideas, suggestions and tips on how YOU, Santa Claus, address these serious concerns of the children ...

See you at the Santa School Conference this fall!

Susen Mesco
Master Santa Claus Trainer since 1983!
31st Professional Santa Claus School Denver, CO
August 30 – September 3, 2013



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