Sitting on Santa’s Lap? Make a Plan Before You Make a List

Tis’ the season.  The wide-eyed wonder in a child’s face when they see holiday lights is a joy to behold.  So then why are so many toddlers crying in the “Take a Photo with Santa” line at the mall?  Blame the conflict between toddler reasoning and emotions.

Toddlers are usually unable to connect the video or storybook Santa with the large man in the suit, speaking in a booming voice through a mass of fake white beard.  They don’t know him, and don’t intend to get up close and personal with a stranger without a fight.  Being in a noisy line with strangers instead of exploring or moving in a stroller is always a recipe for fussiness.  Add cute (but new) and possibly not very comfortable clothing that cannot be messed up by snack crumbs or a bottle….it can all be too much!

What can you do?   Think like a toddler, then reverse-engineer this experience.

1.   Arriving with a full belly and after a good nap is best.  Full-body smocks protect fancy clothes from bottles, sippy cups and crumbs.

2.  Try on those clothes a few times before the big photo op.  When your child is in a good mood, suggest “dress-up” time.  You can dress up too.  Take a photo and print it out.

3.  Wander by the mall if you can, and see if you can get close enough to the Big Man to make him less of a stranger.

4.  Make up stories about your child’s stuffed animals going to see Santa and how they loved it.  Maybe one felt nervous but explain how they squeezed a parent’s hand and felt better.

5.  If your child has a shy temperament or has sensory processing issues that make this event really frightening for them, buy your own costume and have “Santa” show up at home.  You will get a photo  of a happier child and less stress for yourself.  Your child will sense that his parents respect his limits while making positive holiday memories.

By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: