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by Abigail Van Buren

Elf's Helpful Hints Ease Kids' First Visit to Santa

DEAR ABBY: It's that time of year again when parents take their kids to see Santa. As a professional Santa's helper for many years, may I offer some suggestions?

Let your children approach Santa on their own. Do not force your child to sit on Santa's lap. Santa has been seen in books and on TV, but he is now real, big and loud. That can be scary to a child. If he or she wants to stand at a distance and talk to Santa, that is OK. Sometimes just holding the child and standing next to Santa is all it takes for a child to warm up to the idea of sitting on his lap.

If your little one is upset and you want a picture with Santa, have someone else snap the photo while you stand by your child. Let Santa talk to your children while you hold their hands. Santa (if any good) will pace the visit and stop it if it's taking too long. If children are afraid, do not let Santa grab at them to put them on his lap. That will only make the problem worse.

I hope this helps to make the visit easier. -- SANTA'S HELPER IN CENTRAL ILLINOIS

DEAR SANTA'S HELPER: Ho-ho-ho! Thank you for being ABBY's helper today. I hope parents will take your sound suggestions to heart when introducing their little ones to the jolly man in the red suit.