How does Santa answer this statement?

By Santa Tim Connaghan

The Economic woes of the past two years have reached many corners of our society and have touched everyone including children and even Santa.   Children continue to worry because they are hearing the ‘E’ word.  And unfortunately the ‘E’ word they are hearing is not ELMO.

They are hearing the word “Economy.”

Children are over-hearing their parents mentioning the Economy.  Usually it is in hushed discussions.  And sometimes, in the same discussions, the words, Holiday, Christmas, Santa Claus and presents are also mentioned.

Situations such as this are causing concerns for Santas who are now being asked, "What will you say or explain to a child should the child say, I’m not supposed to ask you for anything big this year.”  Or, heaven forbid, “Daddy said Santa is not coming to our house this year!”

Psychologists will tell you that some children, if told Santa was not going to visit their home, will often assume that they have done something wrong and may even think that Santa’s non-appearance is a way of punishing them.  For this reason alone, parents need to be careful.  A child should never be put in a situation where they are left to believe something is their fault when it is not.

Most Santas have had some training on answering common difficult questions.  But each year they must make a little review in order to keep up with the changes in society.  Today those changes mostly center on answering difficult questions regarding the economy.

Now although Santa normally only gets to talk with a child for a minute or less, he has a responsibility to listen to their comments and wishes, and to give them an answer that contains some element of hope that in turn, will give them a good feeling as they climb down from his lap.

Of course Santa is not allowed to promise anything, nor can he deny or tell a child "No," that they can’t have something.  Santas have to be diplomats in answering each child’s question or wish.

This coming holiday season, as was last year, it is evident that the questions related to economy will be presented to Santas not just in certain regions, but everywhere.

Questions like, “My daddy (or mommy ) is out of work.”

“We lost our house and are living with Grandma.”  (Or even worse are living in our car.)

Or, “My Daddy said you may not come to our house this year.”

These are all very difficult questions.  But children trust Santa.  They will tell him little secrets, things they might not tell anyone else.

And often these secrets are the ones that can break Santa's heart.  Secrets that most of us hope we will never hear.   

If a child visiting Santa asks a difficult question or mentions a subject that is delicate, Santas have a responsibility to respond to the question, show that he understands, and give some form of answer that is both non-committal and yet positive or uplifting.  It is is job, if possible, to make the child feel better. 

Santa can begin with a simple “I am sorry to hear that.” Offering a bit of sympathy.

He can then let them know he understands, "these are difficult times.He can let them know that times like this happen every so often but his hopes are that things will get better.

Santa can then easily change the subject and talk of better things, like “If I could bring you something for Christmas, what would you want?”. 

Or Santa could ask the child, “Could I bring you a  surprise.”  Most children always love surprises.  By using the ‘surprise’ you are not saying big or small, nor giving any details.   But you are telling them there will be something for them on Christmas morning.

Finally, Santa should let the child know that they are loved.  Their parents love them, and Santa loves them.  Then it’s time to say good bye.

In doing all of this a Santa must also recognize that a visiting child was probably brought by someone, possibly a parent, and this might be a good sign that even the parent is hoping for something good.  And hopefully the parent or guardian was listening. 

If a Santa has a chance, and his position allows a moment to talk with the parent or guardian, he can let them know there are places and people who would love to help.  He can suggest churches, schools or the local fire department.   It’s kind of like Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle, when he suggest to a mother to try Gimble’s . 

And finally, Santas should encourage the parents to have a least one present on Christmas morning for each child.  It doesn’t matter what size.  All that matters is that the child finds a gift.

Recently a survey was sent out to almost 1900 Santas, Father Christmas and St. Nicholas inviting their thoughts and suggestions on what a Santa might say to a child, should they mention anything about Santa not coming to their home this year, or that they have been told there would be smaller or no presents at all this year.

There were almost 350 responses which have condensed down to a few simple and practical suggestions on how Santa might handle these problems, should they arise in talking with a child or their parent.     These answers were distributed to all of the major Photo companies (representing over 1500 malls) and among the Santa community, nationwide.

To begin with, many Santas in responding to this survey expressed a concern that it is totally wrong for any parent to tell a believing child that St. Nicholas, Santa or Father Christmas may skip their home this year.  No child will ask this type of question unless it has been prompted by an adult.

Psychologists will tell you that some children, if told something like this, will often assume that they have done something wrong and may even think that Santa’s non-appearance is a way of punishing them.  For this reason alone parents need to be careful.  A child should never be put in a situation where they are left to believe something is their fault when it is not.

It is hard to believe that in today's world that anyone would tell their child that Santa would skip their house when there are so many ways to get help for a child from local groups and agencies.

Many Santas in the survey responded with feelings that most parents who truly love their children will never tell a child that Santa will not visit this year.  And, even with the economic pressures they face, parents will explain that the size of the gift is not what is important and that no matter what, Santa will visit and there will always be something from Santa on Christmas morning. 

Since long before Nicholas and Christianity people from all backgrounds have chosen to help others.  As the legends and stories of St. Nicholas were embraced by his followers, the spirit of holiday giving has encompassed the earth. 

Through the centuries Christmas has encountered years and even decades of war, famine, economic difficulties and hardships. 

Yet every year, come the morning of December 25, children the world over wake to find that they were not forgotten and that someone, be he St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, has left something in their stocking or under the tree.  Something with their name on it.

Yes, even in the most desperate times of poverty there is no excuse for denying a child the gift of love (and/or of an orange or a few nuts or home-made cookies)!

The overall response from the survey is that Santa must assure the children that he is going to visit every child’s home on Christmas Eve.  As always, Santa can’t promise anything, but he should let the child know that there will be some sort of surprise on Christmas Morning.

It doesn’t matter whether the gift be big or small; What matters is that come Christmas Morning, when the children wake, they will find a gift, something with their name on it , and maybe a note that says, from Santa!

 Here are a few suggestions that some Santas have said they might use if a child expresses some concern or worry:

·           “Since the beginning of time there have always been little problems, but that hasn’t stopped Santa.  Don’t worry; I will have a surprise for you on Christmas morning.”

·           One Santa suggested that Santa always end a visit with, "Santa loves you and will do the best he can to meet your request."  He added, if possible try to give the children a nice hug.

·           A child should never leave Santa's lap thinking he will be skipped!!!!!

·            “I think I know the perfect gift for you this year and I'm going to make it a surprise.” In this way Santa does not promise anything and leaves the gift selection up to the parent.

·           A child should never expect to get everything they ask for.  Yes, Santa does try to answer everyone’s request, but he has to be fair with all children and distribute all the toys equally.  "Santa may not always bring you what you want, but he will definitely try to give you what you need."

·           A strong section of the Santas commented on the Christian aspects of Christmas and suggested that everyone, both the children and the parents be reminded of the true “Reason for the Season,” the birth of Christ.

·           Santa should remind everyone that the true gift of Christmas is God's Love and the love of our family.  If it's inappropriate to share the Christian view, Santa still can emphasize that love and family are the most important.

·           “The important thing about Christmas is not about getting gifts, it is about giving and of love for our fellow man.  The gift of love is very special and it is free, something we can all give away.”

·            “Although Santa's presents may not be as plentiful this year as before please remember Santa loves all children and “Love for All” is the main reason for Christmas.”

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