SUNDAY, Dec. 9, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Despite jolly old Saint Nick's best efforts, some young children are scared of him. This can turn family outings to see Santa into a frightful experience for youngsters and stress out parents hoping for that holiday photo op.
But there are ways to ensure that terror doesn't strike when you take your child to see Santa, says anxiety expert Martin Anthony, a psychology professor at Ryerson University, in Toronto.
Before a visit with Santa, talk to your children about what is likely to happen. Knowing what to expect can help reduce a child's fear. It might also be helpful to expose children to Santa through storybooks, photos, online videos and DVDs to prepare them for their visit.
If your child is frightened, have him or her watch from a distance as an older sibling or friend sits on Santa's lap. Once they see that it is fun, they may want to do it, too. Let your child approach Santa at his or her own pace. Never force a child to approach Santa, Anthony said.
You could offer a child a little reward such as ice cream or a small toy for having a picture taken with Santa.
If nothing works, don't worry about it. It's normal for young children to be afraid of Santa and other costumed characters, Anthony said. They'll eventually outgrow their fear of him.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers holiday health tips.