Scared of Santa? {guest post}

Scared of Santa?

A mysterious old man sneaking into your house while you’re asleep … for a child who’s old enough to be aware of Christmas for the first time, the concept of a visit from Santa Claus could be a little creepy.
How do child psychologists advise handling this subject with your kids? What do you say when your son asks you how the jolly old elf can circumvent your home security system while burglars can’t?

A funny phenomenon … or maybe not

Type the phrase "Scared of Santa" into a search engine and you’ll be surprised (or possibly a little chagrined).
Humorous websites far and wide invite the public to marvel at images and videos depicting tiny tots shrieking on the laps of department store Santas. Your local newspaper’s website might even have a special section where readers can upload their own "Scared of Santa" photos.
Authors Denise Joyce and Nancy Watkins have capitalized on the phenomenon by publishing a book with more than 250 such photos, some going back decades. The title? "Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland."
It’s all in fun — but maybe not if you’re the real-life parent of a child who’s feeling anxious at what should be the happiest time of the year.

Rooted in child psychology

There’s no official name for the fear of Santa Claus, but it would seem to be closely related to the well-documented coulrophobia — the fear of clowns.
In both cases, the object of the child’s anxiety is a larger-than-life figure dressed in unusual clothing. While garish makeup covers the face of a clown, most of Santa’s features are concealed by his large beard.
In addition to the emotional reaction, the symptoms of coulrophobia can include sweating, nausea and rapid heartbeat.

What can you do as a parent?

Child psycholologists and other experts don’t have a consensus pick for a one-size-fits-all solution to Santa Claus anxiety. However, they do agree that parents should communicate with their kids even if a problem hasn’t yet made itself evident.
Here’s a list of some all-purpose tips:
·         Talk to your children about Santa. Find out how much they know and how much they understand and try to get a sense of their comfort level.
·         Don’t force the issue. If your child is afraid of Santa, avoid putting him in a situation where he’ll be face-to-face with the source of the fear. (That photo can always wait until next Christmas, when the child will have had another year to get comfortable, and there’s no reason your child can’t connect with Santa by writing him a letter.)
·         Don’t be afraid to be honest. Many kids gradually become aware that Santa is make-believe, but a child who starts out terrified of the jolly old elf could benefit from some parental candor — he’s not a real person, he’s not really coming into our house, etc.

Protecting the heart of the illusion

If you do break the truth to your child, however, remember to do it gently.
The whole idea of Santa Claus is to celebrate the spirit of Christmas and the power of imagination — two things that no one should be afraid of.
And if your child does ask the home security system question, just consult and learn about guest codes. Say that you shared a secondary access code with Santa so that he can enter and exit safely on Christmas Eve. If we can’t trust jolly old St. Nick, who can we trust?


Abbi said…
I think it's funny how all kids can't wait for santa to arrive to their home yet if they see santa at the mall they tend to freak out. It's kinda funny and I think about it every year

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