"It's Ok, Sweetie, Clowns Are Funny" ~ "Fear Of Clowns" Phobia Known As Coulrophobia
This is a very real phobia!
Until I once worked with a lady who had a "fear of clowns," I wasn't even aware of the existence of such a thing. She really hated them. She didn't even want to see pictures of them. And sometimes when you let people you work with know that you have a fear like this, they think it is "funny" to show you pictures just to see your reaction, which I personally think is kind of cruel.
When we are little children, we are exposed to clowns in parades, sometimes at a child's birthday party and in other situations. Usually it isn't a big deal. But for some children, it is almost a traumatic thing. They see clowns and they are afraid. And it seems the more they are "pushed" to look at them "clowns are funny, sweetie, you'll like them"... well meaning parents may make the problem worse than it would be otherwise.
Some children as well as adults have a very REAL fear of clowns, called Coulrophobia. And at the root of the fear is usually that the painted face "hides" real emotion. When children are very small, they look at adult's faces and "see" our emotions by our smile, or frown, or whatever our facial reaction is to a situation. Once you paint over that, paint a bright red "smile" outlined by white... it is more difficult if not impossible to see the emotion, and perhaps more importantly, to see the person's intention..."is this person going to hurt me?" The painted mask hides those emotions!
A very real root fear is that the person is "masking" their true feelings, that they may really be an "evil" person, masking it with an exaggerated smile.
The appearance of clowns in many horror movies certainly does NOT help the situation. It may even turn the fear into an "ingrained" fear that will be difficult if not impossible to overcome. These clowns (in horror movies) exist only to do evil things, which perpetuates the fear for those who were afraid of them since childhood anyway. It almost "validates" the fear for them and makes things worse.
Now most people will see clowns as entertaining, funny even. If your child is exhibiting fear behavior around them, probably the worst thing you can do is force them into a situation. Let them talk about their fear, for it is very real, even if you think it is a "silly" thing to be afraid of.
Be sensitive to your child's wishes, and try to stay out of a situation where they will have to see clowns. Once they are older, if they want to try to get over their fear, they can make the choice of exposing themselves to clowns a little bit at a time to try to "desensitize" the fear. But that should be their choice and not something they are forced into before they are ready.
Some of the symptoms of any phobia include:
- rapid breathing
- shortness of breath
- sweating and nausea
- severe anxiety
- irregular heartbeat (very fast heartbeat)
- dry mouth
- a general feeling of "dread"
Some ways to treat a phobia are gradual exposure to the thing that one fears, as well as a behavior therapy where one learns to substitute their bad feeling with a feeling of peace, being in a good place. It takes time and patience to "get over" any phobia. Another effective treatment has been "self hypnosis" which can be learned by seeing a mental health professional. This has to be the choice of the person who has the phobia, and not forced on them. They have to want to get over their fear.
If your child exhibits a fear of clowns, or any fear really, be sensitive to their feelings, for they are very real. Usually this fear first appears between the ages of 2 and 7, but sometimes it can go into the teenage years, or even into adulthood. Acknowledge the fear, and if necessary, avoid situations that will make the child uncomfortable until they are a bit older. Let them lead the way as to whether they still fear clowns once they are older.
If you are sensitive to their feelings as they are growing up, you will probably raise an empathetic child who can be sensitive to others who are in bad situations, which is a very desirable trait in the adult that your child will be one day.