‘Tis nearly the festive season and Santa’s are already springing up in shopping centres everywhere.
My kids have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the shopping centre Santa. My eldest clued into the truth about the big guy very early in life and has never seen the point of getting a photo with a stranger. My middle son was always keen enough but hates standing in line to wait. My daughter, the youngest, loves the idea of being with Santa but usually freaks out when it comes to crunch time.
They are also all pretty sharp on the observation skills and when questioned about how Santa is in so many places at once (not to mention looks a little different each time) I told the two believers that it is actually Santa’s elves dressed up and helping out… Way to kill the magic, mum.
Needless to say, this means we have only done Santa photos a couple of times.
I would never force my kids to have a photo when they don’t want to but I’m surprised at how many parents do.
I’ve read forums, comment threads and blog posts like this one, full of tricks and ideas to get your child to cooperate just to get a snap. Some of the more extreme measures parents go to include:
- Sitting next to Santa under a cloth the same colour as the background so the child sits on the parent’s knee but the parent isn’t in the photo
- Having Santa hide behind the chair and pop up at the last minute to appear in the photo (freaky much?)
- Bribing with chocolate, toys, lollies
- Threatening that Santa won’t bring presents if they don’t have their photo taken!
At the risk of sounding like a judgy mum, these are all a bit disturbing in my opinion. Even worse was the view of some parents that the photos with their traumatised children crying or looking scared were the best shots!
I find it pretty ironic that most parents try to teach their children to listen to their instincts when it comes to stranger danger, but that gets thrown out the window for the sake of a photo opportunity. We cajole and coerce our little folk to sit on a strange man’s knee, all in the name of Christmas spirit.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of photo of all my kid’s with Santa, but I’d prefer them to be happy about the prospect and displaying genuine joy.
If you are still keen on getting that Santa pic but your kids aren’t, a couple of parents share reasonable tips to reduce anxiety around Santa photos, such as:
- Walking past Santa each time you go to the shops and waving, smiling or even talking to him to familiarise the kids with the big guy before you even attempt the photo.
- Be the first in line to reduce frustration and fatigue from waiting. They will also avoid seeing other kids get distressed.
- Have a parent, grandparent, the whole family, extended family or even a friendship group to go for the photo – there is safety in numbers after all!
- Get a friend or relative to dress up instead as Santa and create your own festive memories.
At the end of the day, if your kids are really distressed by the whole process, you have to ask yourself if those are the memories you want to be making.
What’s your view? Do you push for Santa photos regardless of what your kids want or do you let them decide?