Clowns Are Scary For Children

What Can You Do To Help?

October 24, 2016

Not all clowns are this friendly looking.

Creepy clowns are in the news. McDonald’s is keeping Ronald out-of-site for a while in light of surging reports of creepy clown sightings across the country. How much are your children or grandchildren noticing the reports on TV or the internet?

Children may have concerns about running into one of the non-happy clowns being reported, especially as Halloween approaches.

But children do not need to live in fear, and adults can make their lives a little easier with a common sense approach, according to Richard Nenneau, Behavioral Health Center Service Line Director for Penn Highlands Healthcare.

The first step is talking. “Talk to your children and let them be open and express themselves,” Nenneau said. “Let them know that clowns are not real; that’s important.
This is a person who has made themselves up to look like this.”

This kind of fear may have less to do with clowns and more with a normal-sized body with a painted face, big shoes, colorful clothes and the unknown about who is under this disguise.

“Parents can convey to their kids to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “If something looks suspicious or odd or out of place, tell children they should talk to a parent, an adult in charge or even law enforcement.”

“Also, tell your children to certainly never take anything from or go with a stranger. Nor should they ever get into someone’s car even if they show them a weapon. Be loud and fight back in the street where people can hear you. If you are in town, someone is going to take notice.”

“If you feel you are in danger, call 911. Parents, make sure you point out safe places for your kids. Show them safe places to play, safe roads and routes,” Nenneau said.

“At night, kids will be out trick or treating. Be sure that they walk in lighted areas as much as possible. Try not to walk too close to bushes, and don’t take short cuts. For example, in DuBois, the alley ways are less well lit. Be careful.”

“It’s always a good idea to have a buddy system after dark,” Nenneau said. “The old adage there is safety in numbers is true.”

Nenneau said that most of the older children will be more aware of the clown scare. “Elementary ages won’t have the level of fear a middle-schooler will. Younger children may see a clown and not pay attention.”

Around middle school age, they are going to be more aware of surroundings; they’re going to have a better sense when something is unsafe. Having a cell phone ready to use is always helpful, too. “Truly, call 911 if something seems really strange,” Nenneau said.

And this advice is viable for daily life outside of the clown scare. As all of this hysteria with clowns will come to pass, it is always good for parents to keep a good eye on their children, know who they are going with and remind them to be safe. Always give a definite time period to be home by.

When should parents be concerned about child’s fears? “They should worry when the child is afraid to go out of the house,” Nenneau said, “or if the child displays avoidance behavior. There may be some reaction that is out of the ordinary and unusual, such as reacting if a clown is on TV or in a book. That is a sign of concern.” Parents may also see change in sleeping patterns or a child may not sleep as well.

Obviously, if a child shows unusual behavior if there is an incident, if he or she is scared and the fear doesn’t go away for a month or six weeks, concern is warranted. And this advice applies to any traumatic event, such as a car accident or any type of odd situation or incident. Sudden events can be traumatic for children of any age. This can also include the sudden passing of a loved one.

“They don’t understand what happened and why. Absolutely talk to your kids,” Nenneau said. If a child is unwilling to talk, resistant to talking or don’t seem to be responding to talking, then it is time to seek professional help.”

There are services at Penn Highlands Healthcare. The Child and Adolescent Program is for young people under age 18 exhibiting problems that impair their ability to function at home or in school. Outpatient offices are located at Penn Highlands DuBois East.

The program provides comprehensive outpatient psychiatric care with a team of adult and child psychiatrists, psychologists, physician assistants, licensed clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors who work with children through their issues. They also work with young people with adjustment reactions, depression, eating disorders, severe attention-deficit disorders, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders.

To contact the PH DuBois Child and Adolescent Program, call 814-371-4862 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.