By Engelbert the Earnest Elf
Hey there mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle or anyone else who is an important person in a child’s life. Thank you SO much for all that you do!! My name is Englebert…I’m an Elf. I handle a lot of the PR/Marketing/Image Management/Candy Cane Glazing at the North Pole. Since that time of year is here, I know you’re making plans for that oh-so-important excursion to visit with the Big Guy for a few minutes. I wanted to offer up a few tips to help make that trip fun and enjoyable for everyone. You ready? Check this out…
1. Know Santa’s Schedule!! – Wherever you decide to meet with the Main Man in Red…his house, the mall, at a store…make sure you know when he’s going to be there. “Busy” does not even describe his schedule during this time of year. He tries to make sure he’s available most places in the evenings and a couple of hours on weekends, but double check before you just drop by. There’s nothing worse than getting a child all fired up for a visit and then the Claus-man is not there!
2. Don’t rush it!! – Imagine for a minute, you walked into a room and right there was sitting a huge hero of yours from professional sports, or the movies, or television. Do you think you would just casually walk over and say ‘hi’? Probably not! You might be speechless for a few minutes!! Even a little bit scared! In a kid’s world, Santa is a Rock Star. Your kids might talk about seeing him for weeks before the visit, but when they are face to face with him, the reaction can be everything from shyness to outright screaming terror. Please don’t make it worse by grabbing their arm and pushing them towards the Big Guy. If you are in an uncomfortable or frightening situation, the last thing you want is to have someone pushing you further into the situation. Be calm, relax, speak quietly and let Santa have a few moments to just get to know your child. He can be a pretty friendly and funny guy. Let them stand across the room or hide behind your leg. If Santa has a few moments to talk with your kids, they might decide he’s not so scary after all and they might walk right over to him on their own. But, they also might NOT…and that is FINE!! Maybe this isn’t their year. If you let them meet with the Big Man on their own terms, then it won’t be so frightening next year. If they are forced into something they don’t like, they won’t ever want to come back. Likewise, if you put a toddler or an infant onto Santa’s lap or into his arms and they start to scream or cry…please don’t make them stay there. If they are unhappy, you won’t have a great memory of the visit and you might cause them to be afraid of Santa when they are older (and that makes him sad).
3. Have your Photo Taking Device out, on and ready to go!! – We know your big objective during any Santa visit is “the picture”. It’s the one you’re going to show everybody…it might even wind up being the Christmas Card this year or next. BE READY!! Moms and Dads use everything from SmartPhones to some really hi-end SLR Cameras when they snap that all-important Santa pic. It doesn’t matter what you use, but knowing how to use it matters a LOT!! Practice with it before your visit. Do you have enough room on the memory card for more pictures? Is the battery charged up? Turn it on BEFORE you walk into the visit. If it needs to boot up or warm up, do that while you are waiting in line. You might only have a few seconds to get the perfect picture…don’t miss it because you didn’t have your camera or phone turned on and ready to go.
4. Be Patient, and Be Flexible – The most happy, gregarious, funny and outgoing kid might clam up and cling to your leg when they are face to face with the “Great and Powerful Claus” (sorry… inside elf joke…Oz reference). Please be understanding, whatever happens. Some very shy children will surprise you and run right over to jump up on the Big Guy’s lap like they’re old friends. Whatever happens, please be patient. Don’t get upset. There is no right or wrong reaction…and however they react is usually instinctive. You probably won’t be able to change their behavior by reasoning with them or scolding them. They’re dealing with a high pressure situation. You need to relax and go with it. A lot of their behavior will mirror your behavior. If you are impatient or upset, they will be, too. Also, don’t be disappointed if they don’t do the traditional “on the knee” pose for a picture. Be flexible. Santa has done this thousands…okay, millions…of times. He’s going to help out as much as he can. Maybe they won’t sit on his lap, but they will stand in front of him to talk. He’s good…he’ll make sure that they turn around and then he’ll lean in or kneel down beside them so that you can get that perfect “picture with Santa”. Which is why you need to have that camera ready to go! You may only get a few seconds.
5. Don’t put words in Santa’s mouth!! – He knows you’re just trying to help out…but “what do you want for Christmas?” is not the first thing Santa is going to ask your child. He would never say anything to you about it…but please don’t prompt your child by saying, “tell Santa what you want.” That takes all of the fun out of things!! That’s getting right down to business!! The Claus-man is a talkative guy…he likes to ask their age or where they go to school or if they have any brothers, sisters, pets, etc. Maybe he’ll talk to them about a video game, or a cartoon character that is on their coat. Kids are insightful, thoughtful and hilarious and Santa really enjoys talking to them about what is going on in their world. He’s definitely going to want to know if they’ve been good this year. THEN he’ll ask them what they are hoping to find under the tree. He knows you’re listening…so he’ll make sure you hear what is being talked about…he might even look your way for a translation…and he definitely won’t promise anything. He ESPECIALLY won’t promise anything if the gift in question is a puppy, a kitty or a cell phone. Those are ALWAYS “parent conference first” kinds of gifts because we only drop them off. You get to pay for them, and care for them, for years and years and years.
6. Be aware of other families behind you – If this just isn’t your child’s year, please don’t drag it out. If your child doesn’t want to talk to Santa in the first two to three minutes then they probably won’t talk to him…and that’s okay. Staying ten minutes isn’t going to change anything. Forcing the issue might even make things worse. As much as Santa would like for you to stay around until your child considers him an old friend, it just isn’t possible. The time he gets to spend at each location and with each child is short, and there are usually other children in line who want their chance to say “hi”.
7. Double digits (most likely) means they’re done – Okay, this one’s tough. Seeing your child grow up is hard. No longer visiting Santa at Christmas is one of those “growing up” kinds of things. By the time your child is 10 years old, they are most likely out of the range of a comfortable Santa visit. If your child has cracked double digits this year, the best approach would be to sit down with them and really listen to their feelings about visiting with the Claus-heimer. Sometimes peer pressure at school (“that’s a baby thing!”) or what they think you want them to do will influence their decision. Make sure they know it’s their choice. If they would really rather not go see Santa, don’t force it. If your 10 year old has younger siblings, you might enlist their help to make sure the younger ones have a good experience. They still come along on the visit, only it is as your helper…and they might also sneak in a quick wish-list or get in the picture while they’re at it!
I hope these tips make your visit with Santa even more enjoyable. Thanks again to all of you moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas and others who are there for our young people. Santa is looking forward to seeing EVERYONE between now and Dec. 24th! In Jacksonville, Santa is going to make his big arrival on Friday, November 28th and will have regular hours up until Christmas. Make sure to check his schedule and we’ll see you there!!
Thanks Again – “3E” (Engelbert the Earnest Elf-PR Dept. North Pole)