Terror in Toyland: Why Are Kids Scared of Santa?
No, Santa! Do NOT Want!
Is Santa Claus a Red Velvet Creeper?
Why are kids so frightened of Santa? Do they know something parents don't? Is jolly old Santa a creeper and we adults just can't see it?
These days, only a self-confident man would don a faux fur-trimmed, red velvet pantsuit and black work boots then top it off with white gloves. Admit it: his style could use some updating.
And what's with that habit of breaking into people's houses? I'm surprised he's not in jail -- or worse.
I have recently gathered explosive photographic evidence that there is indeed terror in toyland. We'll uncover graphic proof that it's indeed not an isolated case of one cranky baby or spoiled tot. Old Kris Kringle has been scaring kids for years.
Now we'll uncover the truth behind the myth. We'll look at the psychology behind some children's fear of Santa, and we'll also ask the hard-hitting question: Is Santa an appropriate role model for children? You'll also get to vote whether the old fella should hang up his boots for good.
So You Need Proof? Yeah, Kids Are Scared of SantaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Practical Reasons Why Santa Photos Fail
Hoping for the perfect photo with Santa, parents typically gussy up the wee ones in outfits that are adorable yet impractical and uncomfortable. Then they race to the local mall, fight for a parking space, and wait among hordes of other eager families, all roped off in long lines.
Is it time for Santa to hang up his boots?
By the time the little dears get to see Old St. Nick, the entire bunch is
- overstimulated from the sights and sounds of Christmas, and
- restless from their wait.
The kids are
- quarreling, and
- haven't gone to the bathroom in several hours. (Or worse yet, their diapers are full and their drawers are soaked.)
And as parents place their precious offspring in the lap of a complete stranger to quickly -- because there are other kids waiting, you see -- recount what they want for Christmas, well, they feel frazzled and ready to get the hell out of there.
But we need to get the photo. Yes, the photo. All eyes are now upon the lucky kid in Santa's lap as she is encouraged to "say 'Cheese!'" in a Facebook-worthy smile.
WHEW! And we wonder why they cry? These are just the practical reasons. (There's also a perfectly rational explanation having to do with child development.)
Undeniable Evidence: Santa Frightens the Little OnesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Stranger Anxiety: "Santa, I Don't Really Know You"
Stranger anxiety, or a sense of distress around unfamiliar people, can explain reactions experienced by young children to Santa and other unfamiliar people. Stranger anxiety develops slowly as infants begin to distinguish between their primary care givers and other people.
For most babies, stranger anxiety emerges around 8 months of age, peaks between 12-15 months, and then declines until about age 24 months. Perhaps you already noticed that nearly all of the children in the Santa photos displayed here seemed to fall in this age range.
Common indications of stranger anxiety include
- becoming quiet and staring intently at the stranger
- verbally protesting (e.g., crying)
- hiding behind, running to, or grabbing at the legs of a parent or caregiver and
- demanding to be picked up.
A normal part of cognitive and emotional development, stranger anxiety signifies two things:
- that a child has developed a healthy attachment to his or her caregiver(s) and
- that he or she can differentiate among loved ones and strangers.
The duration and intensity of stranger anxiety varies greatly from child to child, with the degree of distress being largely a matter of temperament.
Is Santa A Good Role Model For Children? You Decide
Issue of Concern
Diet & Exercise
He is considerably overweight, eats way too many cookies, and uses a sleigh even for short distance travel (when he could reasonably walk). Let's not even talk about his cholesterol, blood sugar, and back trouble.
Exactly how fast is he driving/flying? Does he have a license?
He's smoked a pipe for years. What substance he's smoking, we don't know. (I mean, he's "flying," right?)
Slave Elf Labor
His elves -- er, little people -- are demanding 401(k)s and health benefits, and they want living wages instead of all the candy canes they can eat.
Stop Senseless Reindeer Exploitation
Rudolph and friends were not meant to haul millions of pounds of gifts in one night, all sorts of weather, without holiday or hazard pay.
Shouldn't Santa have friends his own age?
We get that Santa is jolly, but cut the pill in half.
Doesn't Have Good Boundaries
As the global population explodes, he continues to add children to his list rather than set limits. He's overworked, frazzled, and frayed. And it's showing.
Taking Quality Shortcuts
Sources say he's outsourced some of his labor to China to save time and money.
Doesn't Keep Up With the TImes
"Ho" sounds like an insult, the red suit looks like pajamas, and when will the nice and naughty list finally be going digital? Seriously, Santa.
Unlawful breaking and entering. Bypasses home alarm systems while the occupants are asleep: chimneys, locked doors using "magic" keys, and other suspicious means.
Take a Better Santa Photo: Practical Tips on Easing Stranger Anxiety
- To ease stranger anxiety, introduce your child to strangers; take him or her to places to interact with new people.
- Avoid popular times for Santa photos: weekends and the week before Christmas. Also avoid times when you or your child is ill or cranky.
- Ensure your child is well fed and rested. Take a snack just in case.
- Watch Santa movies and read books in advance and discuss. Tell your child what to expect.
- Hold the child while you introduce him or her to Santa.
- Take a favorite book or toy as a distraction.
- Ask Santa to smile and speak softly. (Some Santas are friendlier and quieter than others.)
- Be flexible enough to allow the child to sit or stand next to Santa, or get in the photo yourself if needed.
- Don’t trivialize the child’s fear. (Santa’s used to tearful kids.) Patience and respect starts early.
- If you still get a "screaming photo with Santa," it'll make a memorable Christmas card. You did what you could.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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