Whether it’s crowds, spiders or heights, everyone has something that they are afraid of. And for many children, that fear is of clowns. The proper name for extreme fear of clowns is coulrophobia and there’s nothing funny about it. For those who don’t suffer from it, clowns are seemingly harmless. This is why we often see them at birthday parties, the circus, festivals and other kid friendly events. But It is important to remember that at a young age, your child cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality. The painted face and antics are precisely the things that can create the fear.
Something else to factor in is the “scary clown” trend that started last year. Sightings of creepy, threatening, even violent people in face paint and costumes have been reported throughout the country and this is making young children even more afraid of clowns.
It’s important to reinforce to your child that clowns are merely real people in costumes, just pretending and joking around. Here are some other tips to help a child suffering from coulrophobia:
- Stop the teasing. When you see your child’s terrified response at the sight of a clown, making a joke about it won’t help. Be aware that your child’s fear is real. Explain it to the other members of the family that their sibling’s fear should not be a laughing matter as it might make the situation worse.
- Ask questions to understand. We often cannot understand why our kids exhibit a different behavior when it comes to funny clowns. Every time this happens ask your child what she feels or what they know about clowns so that you can help manage her reaction. Let her do deep breathing exercises if she starts to show panic attacks.
- Don’t get embarrassed. Don’t shy away from the crowd because of the fact that your child has intense fear and nervousness upon seeing a big-red-nosed individual. She is not the only person who possesses this type of condition. Help her face fear by starting slow and gradual exposures in things that arouse her fears. Even so, your child should not be forced to get near a clown.
- Careful with remarks. Criticizing your child or telling her that she is a fraidy cat, coward, or silly will affect her self-esteem. Instead, encourage her to express what she feels. Then, respond by assuring her that she won’t be harmed, and it’s okay not sit closer to the clown for the time being.
- Stay by her side. Make her feel safe whenever she is upset or frightened. Be within her easy reach or sat beside her throughout the party to make her feel comfortable.
In the end, clowns are intended to be fun, but if you know someone has a fear of clowns it’s best not to provoke them—especially young children.