Newswise — To most children, listening to Santa read a story and taking a photo with him is all part of the holiday merriment each year. However, for some toddlers and young kids, this outing can turn into a frightful experience with ol’ Saint Nick and stress parents out. Dr. Martin Antony, a leading expert on anxiety and a psychology professor at Ryerson University, gives parents and their children tips how to make a visit with Santa fun for everyone.
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. Being exposed to Santa beforehand (e.g. - seeing Santa in online videos, photos, story books, DVDs) may help children to be better prepared for their own visit with Santa.
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. Consider offering small rewards (e.g. - ice cream, a small toy) for having a picture taken with Santa.
7. Before you bring your child to the mall, tell him/her a story about Santa so he/she is familiar with this character and sees him as friendly and jolly instead of someone who is new and potentially scary.
8. If all else fails, don’t sweat it. It’s perfectly normal for young children to be afraid of Santa, as well as other costumed characters. Children eventually outgrow their fear of Santa and may want to take a photo with him when they are older.
Looking for more holiday tip sheets and experts? Visit: http://www.ryerson.ca/news/media/spotlight/holiday2012
Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 30,000 students, including 2,300 master's and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 140,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca
EXPERT AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS:
Dr. Martin Antony
Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology
Co-author of The Anti-Anxiety Workbook: Proven Strategies to Overcome Worry
Panic, Phobias and Obsessions (Guilford Press, 2009)
Not available after Dec. 21, 2012