Every year when Nancy Burden of Palos Park decorates her home for Christmas, one of the first things she does is display the photos of her five kids with Santa. Burden, who has 14 years of Santa visits under her hat, says it’s often the visits gone awry that make for the best memories.
"It may not be the Christmas card picture you’re hoping for, but the ones we love the most are the ones where the kids are screaming or have a sad face," Burden admits. "Those are the ones the kids still talk about."
If Santa visits are in your plans for the holiday, remember that the number one key to a successful visit is flexibility. When Michelle Aurelio of Homer Glen took her children to see Santa at Macy’s downtown last year, her 3-year-old, who had eagerly anticipated the visit, wouldn’t go anywhere near Santa. The mom of four decided not to force the issue.
"If they don’t want to get in the picture, that’s OK. Parents usually stress themselves out and want that perfect time, but it doesn’t always work out that way," Aurelio says.
To increase your odds of success, both moms suggest finding a less crowded time, usually mid-week or early in the holiday season, for visits to Santa. Sometimes local brunches with Santa offer a more comfortable atmosphere for kids, Burden says.
You can talk about what to expect when you’re on your way, but don’t overhype the visit. "We do a little bit of preparing, but I don’t want to make them too anxious," Burden says.
If you get to the mall and your child won’t have anything to do with Santa, don’t force it. "There’s no sense in traumatizing them," says Macy’s Santa Jeff Curtis, who advises parents to hold the baby and be part of the photo. Kids afraid of Santa may be willing to say hello to Mrs. Claus or give Santa a high five. Let your child decide how close they’re willing to get to the action.
And if the photo snapped of your child’s first visit to Santa is one of tears and fears, buy it anyway. It may be one of your favorite holiday memories.