Every year during December, we can just about count on seeing elaborate displays of the North Pole where Santa Claus lives with his elvish helpers making toys all year round. And, the centerpiece of these displays is, indeed, the man himself seated in a throne-like chair wearing his classic red and white clothing, his long white beard, and just waiting for little boys and girls to come romping up to sit on his lap and tell him all the things they want to get for the holidays.
At least, that’s the idealized image we have of him. But, I’m certain that, at one point, all of us have either seen or been part of one of these kinds of photos. Yes, the classic “crying Santa photo.” So, the main questions here are: 1) why are the kids crying and 2) how do you get them to, you know, not do that? The answer to number one is “who knows? Not me.” But, the answer to number two is a little bit less mystifying. So, here are a few quick steps to try to ensure that this year’s visit to the mall Santa doesn’t end with a teary red-faced photograph.
1) Stay in sight of your kids at all times. I don’t mean stay where you can see them. Stay where they can see you. Kids don’t have a very well-developed sense of time and if you disappear, they’re going to freak out and think it’s forever.
2) Don’t make them stand in line for ages. Look, if it’s really crowded and they really want to see Santa, then make friends with the people around you in line. Talk to the people running the Santa exhibit and see if you can get an appointment or something. Many places that have crowds like that do assign each person in line a time to visit Santa. If neither of those is an option and you’re there with a friend (or spouse), then have them save the place in line while you take the kids off to do something else. This way, they’re much less likely to be frustrated and tired by the time they do finally get to see the main attraction.
3) Bring snacks. Kids get hungry. Hunger makes them moody. Moodiness means meltdowns. So, pour some cereal into a snack bag and use it to keep your child placated during the wait.
4) Don’t get your kids riled up. Don’t tease them or do things that will upset them right before you hand them over to complete strangers. Even if you think it’s funny, just don’t. The guys running the Santa land don’t get paid enough to deal with your emotional immaturity.
5) Don’t try to make the mall Santa pictures The Photos of the Season. Unless your kid insists on dressing in their Sunday best, let them wear comfortable clothing. For the Picturesque Family Photo, go to a professional photographer in a less stimulating setting.
6) If your kid cries, don’t fuss at them to calm down. The younger they are, the more futile this is. Instead, try to get up there and distract them. If that doesn’t work, then let them finish up and then take them home.
There’s no guarantee, other than age, that your kids won’t be the ones crying in this year’s Santa photo. However, with a little forethought and planning, you can reduce the odds of it happening and deal with it better if it does happen. Trust me, your local mall Santa will thank you.
— da Bird