Scared by Santa?

by Aviva Patz

Scared by Santa?

Your fondest Christmas wish may be a snapshot of your child on Santa's knee, but be prepared to hear "no, no, no" instead of "ho, ho, ho."

Toddlers are often afraid of the unfamiliar, and a bearded man in a red suit (or anyone else in costume) can look mighty strange to a kid.

Not all children are wary of mall Santas, but to keep yours from getting freaked:

1. Explain what to expect. Simply say, "We'll stand in line together. Then you'll sit on Santa's lap and tell him what you want for Christmas." If you have a photo of another of your kids with St. Nick, bring it out. Point Santa out at the mall well before you get in line, if you can.

2. Let him choose his outfit or bring a favorite toy along, so he feels he has some control over the visit.

3. Describe what's happening in line: "That girl going up to Santa is so excited!"

4. Have a Plan B. If your child refuses to leave your side, maybe he'd go up to Santa if you'd go with him. If not, just walk away. No picture—even an iconic one!—is worth traumatizing your toddler.