Nightmares Before Christmas: Avoiding Holiday Tantrums

Scared of Santa

You're convinced your child will be psyched to meet the jolly guy who brings her Christmas gifts -- and you can't wait to capture it on camera. But when the magical moment arrives, she sobs harder than she did at her flu shot.

Prevention pointers: Before you hit the line, let your kid watch other children sit on Santa's lap and see how she reacts. "Don't waste time waiting for a photo if she looks panicked," says Peter Stavinoha, PhD, a child neuropsychologist at Children's Medical Center Dallas. If your child seems interested, introduce her to Santa when it's her turn ("Sara, this is Santa. He delivers a special present to you on Christmas"). Explain that you're going to put her on Santa's lap so she can tell him what she wants -- and that you'll be back as soon as you take a picture.

Fast fix: Bail on the photo if your kid is truly hysterical. It's not unusual for children to freak out when they meet Santa, and you can't really blame them. "What other time of year would you say, 'Why don't you sit on the lap of that large, bearded man we don't know?'" says Marlene Belew Huff, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. If you're dead set on getting that Santa pic -- and your child is just a little teary -- snap away and don't feel disappointed. It may end up being one of your favorite photos!

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