Whether you’re 4 or 40, Christmas is and should be a magical time. Whatever your family and whatever your traditions, Christmas is about love and spending quality time together, and for many with younger children that means a visit to Father Christmas.

However, not every child is a big fan of a large man with a beard beckoning them over, even if he does have a sackload of toys.

The good news is that you, as a parent, can make visiting Santa seem a lot less daunting and a lot more fun, so even if your child is pitching a full screaming fit, there’s no need to panic.

Step 1: Acknowledge the feeling

This sounds a bit wishy-washy so bear with me. Telling your child that it’s okay to be a little scared but telling them that they have you on their side is automatically going to make them feel better. You’re a big grown up and it’s your job to protect them, so telling them you will means they feel stronger. It doesn’t matter that you know Santa is just an actor or the local vicar in a red suit, what matters is how you make your child feel. So by telling them it’s okay to be wary but that they’re safe, you’re giving them strength.

Step 2: Don’t force things

Nobody will have a good memory if you force a screaming child to sit on Santa’s knee. It’s not a good experience for you, them or poor Father Christmas either. Nor does it make for a good photo. So, if your child is happy to stand by Santa, to tickle a reindeer ear or to shake hands with the jolly man, let them. Forcing a situation is not the way to conquering a fear and you could end up making the situation far worse.

Step 3: Be positive

However it ends, be it with a screaming fit, a handshake or a full on cuddle, turn it into a positive. It might not have gone the way you wanted it to but by keeping things light and by ensuring your children know that whatever reaction they had it was okay, you’re making the situation easier for them the next time you try.

Step 4: Don’t use Santa as a punishment

As much as our traditions tell us that Santa only visits good girls and boys, letting your children think Santa is a frightening figure who’s going to punish them by not bringing toys isn’t really the way to go if you want them to see him as a magical, fun figure.

Step 5: See the positive

It might not seem like it at the time, but in actual fact your child having a bad reaction to Santa is a good thing. You’ve spent the whole year warning them about talking to strangers and they’ve listened!

I hope your grotto visit goes well, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures to share and keep. I’d love to see some!

Some great grotto visits are:

Dobbies Garden Centre 


Masson mills