Did you know that being afraid of clowns is an actual psychological condition? It’s a phobia known as Coulrophobia and it affects millions of children as well as adults.
The exact causes of coulrophobia are not known, but some speculate that it could be due to the exaggerated face paintings that clowns have. Children, especially toddlers and babies, are often very reactive to unfamiliar or unusual body types or to people who have disfigurements.
Another possible cause could be related to clown behavior. To get laughs, clowns will often mimic physical pain, injury or suffering. Children sometimes are not able to distinguish between this pretend suffering and actual pain. So the experience of watching a comical routine can become traumatic for some people.
A Self-Fulfilling Phobia
Many older children and adults develop coulrophobia as a result of popular culture. Clowns are frequently portrayed as evil or dangerous characters, such as Pennywise the clown in the Stephen King book and movie, “It”.
In this instance, it’s something of a self-fulfilling prophesy: Creative writers know some people are afraid of clowns so they create stories which contain scary clowns, which in turns frightens even more people.
Overcoming Clown Anxiety
If your child shows signs of being afraid of clowns, there are a number of things you can do. The first is not to force your child to be exposed to clowns if he or she doesn’t want to. This can often make their phobia even worse.
The second is to have a conversation about what a clown actually is. Explain that there is a real person under all that makeup and costume and that they are simply there to entertain and amuse.
If your child is comfortable with it, try dressing up with them as a clown or sharing clown face paint so they can become more familiar with the process.
As with any fear, be supportive and understanding with your child. If they don’t like clowns, don’t invite any to their next birthday party! Instead, rent a bounce house!