Santa Stress


Santa can be stressful and I don’t mean being Santa with a long list and even longer checkout line in front of you.  Santa can be stressful for some kids!   As usual, children adopted at older ages (or really, any child who had a hard start in life) are sometimes more sensitive to Santa Stress, although I think it can happen to any child.

Don’t get me wrong.  I not only like Santa, I love Santa!  I do think we need to be thoughtful about how we present him and be sensitive to how he comes across to our child and what messages we send.

Let me give you some examples of some Santa pitfalls I’ve seen:

Santa is a pretty scary looking guy.

Santa is a pretty scary looking guy.

Santa is a pretty scary looking guy.
Pretty self-explanatory.  Usually we recognize this as a potential problem for little bitty kids, but don’t forget older children new to the US may find Santa to be a little shocking, too!

Santa behaves in some pretty freaky ways.

Santa behaves in some pretty freaky ways.
One Christmas Eve night when my son was very small, the idea of Santa’s imminent visit really upset him–upset him to the point of tears!  When I asked him what was wrong, he explained that he didn’t want Santa to sneak into our house–it was scary!

Think about it… a strangely dressed fat man sneaks into your house after everyone is asleep and everyone is okay with that????  For kids who have a negative worldview or who just tend to be worry warts, you can see how this could be a problem!

Sitting on Santa's lap is not always that much fun for the kids.

Sitting on Santa’s lap is not always that much fun for the kids.
I actually made both my kids sit on Santa’s lap long enough to get a picture of them.  I told the photographer to just snap a quick shot and popped the little one on Santa’s lap just long enough for a quick picture. In both my kids’ earliest Santa pictures you can see my hand holding one of theirs!

If your child is nervous or frightened or crying please be sensitive and don’t try to coax them to smile or talk to Santa!

Santa's criteria for gift giving stinks!

Santa’s criteria for gift giving stinks! The idea that only “good” children receive gifts is really a problem in a couple of ways.  First of all, it’s a problem because it really attacks the whole message “You are an inherently good child” that is so important for building attachment.

Secondly, it’s really problematic for children that haven’t always lived in a family able to provide Santa magic.  What message does the naughty/nice criteria send to a child who lived in an orphanage?  A neglectful or chaotic birth home where perhaps Santa was forgotten or skipped over?

super mom

Santa (and now his elves) have the potential to suck up your Mom or Dad power.

Santa (and now his elves) have the potential to suck up your Mom or Dad Power.
The whole “Behave or Santa won’t come and bring you any presents” really blasts parental competency.  ALL parents, and especially parents whose children are more sensitive or with whom we’re working on attachment need to present themselves as capable and competent to handle any situation and especially the child’s behavior!

I think that the new Elf on the Shelf is a cute idea, but hate the overall concept of having a little elf sitting around the house who gives nightly reports to Santa on the children’s behavior so that Santa knows if they deserve a gift or not.   (see “Santa’s gift giving criteria stinks”)  When my 5-year-old became aware of this idea and asked me about it I flat-out told her that it wasn’t true… that it was just an idea that grown ups made up to try to get kids to behave.

I don’t need Santa to take care of discipline or to help my child manage their behavior.  I am Mom, that’s MY job and I’m perfectly capable of doing it without Santa threats.

Okay, having said all that, I really do like the Santa thing overall!  Christmas and holiday traditions–Santa included–are one of the biggest joys for me as a parent!  I just think that we need to avoid some of these pitfalls and keep the fun and magic.

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2 Responses to “Santa Stress”

  1. Nancy Barth Says:

    Have you heard of ‘Sensitive Santa?’ I got this link from a friend.

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