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Offers Tips for Happy Pictures with Santa

Santa Claus may be the bearer of toys and Christmas cheer, but the jolly old elf doesn’t always bring out happiness in those that visit him.

Many parents know the drill: You get your child excited for a trip to see Santa, but when he or she lands on his lap, that excitement can turn quickly to tears.

To all parents lamenting that sad snapshot with St. Nick — you’re not alone.

“I think it’s because of his size in general. And his voice being different,” said Dr. Jennifer Snyder, a pediatrician with Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. “Maybe even his clothing too.”

There’s plenty to fear about the big guy in red, not the least of which is the fact that, other than what you see on TV and read in stories, he’s a stranger.

That’s especially so for kids ages 1 to 3, when the fear of Santa peaks.

“If you just throw them on Santa’s lap, those arms are going to come flailing out to you right away, and they’re not going to be ready for it,” said Snyder.

There are a number of simple tips to try and ease the anxiety of visiting Santa.  Those includes reading stories about him, walking by and pointing out Santa on occasion before you want to take the picture, and even having parents sit with Santa.

Snyder, who has two children under the age of four, said there’s even advice for Santa, too.

“Some of the Santas do a good job by getting down to the child’s level right in the beginning, and I think that’s really important,” she said. “I try to do that in my own office.”

The last piece of advice — which may be a spoiler for the results of our own experiment — is that parents should prepare for, and appreciate, any reaction they get on camera.

“I don’t think a couple times on Santa’s lap is going to leave any long-term scarring,” said Snyder.

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