Long Island Parent Talk

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Help kids ease their fear of Santa

Expert tips on helping ease your child's fear

Expert tips on helping ease your child's fear of Santa. (Credit: Handout)

For many families, taking a photo with Santa is a quintessential holiday tradition.

Parents place their children on St. Nick's lap, hoping and praying there are smiles rather than tears.

Many kids are excited to meet the man who brings all the toys on Christmas morning, but for some, it's a truly frightening experience.

Last year, my daughter Maggie wasn't even a year old when she met Santa for the first time. My husband and I sat on the sidelines, holding our breath and waiting for the water works, but they never came. Maggie just looked at Santa and then glanced over skeptically at us as the photographer snapped the pictures.

This year, though, may be a different story. Sometimes she gets funny with strangers and cries, reaching out for a familiar face. We plan on taking her soon.

If your child is afraid of Santa, Dr. Martin Anthony, a leading expert on anxiety and a psychology professor at Ryerson University offers these tips on how to make it a joyful experience.

1. Talk to your children about what is likely to happen during their visit with Santa. Knowing what to expect can go a long way to reduce a child’s fear.

2. Modeling by others can be a useful strategy for reducing fear. Have your frightened child watch from a distance as an older sibling or friend sits on Santa’s lap. Once he/she sees that visiting Santa is actually something fun, your child may be want to participate as well.

3. Expose your children to Santa beforehand (seeing Santa in online videos, photos, story books, DVDs, for example) may help children to be better prepared for their own visit with him.

4. Allow your child to approach Santa at his/her own pace. Start far away and gradually encourage your child to get closer as he or she becomes more comfortable.

5. Don’t force your child to approach Santa. Although exposure to feared situations is an effective way to reduce fear, it only works when it’s predictable (no surprises) and under the control of the child.

6. If all else fails, don’t sweat it. Children eventually outgrow their fear of Santa and may want to take a photograph with him when they are older.

Looking for Santa? Here's a guide to where to find St. Nick around Long Island.

Check out Long Island kids 'scared Santa' photos.

Tags: holidays

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