Q. With the recent creepy clown threats and sightings nationwide, how should parents reassure their children (and themselves) that they’ll be safe trick-or-treating on Halloween?
A. Some people are actually choosing creepy clown masks or suits as their costume of choice for the holiday because of all the social media attention.
Younger kids are most likely unaware of the phenomenon, and so if they don’t bring it up at all, don’t introduce anxiety to their celebration, advises Darby Fox, a Manhattan-based child and adolescent family therapist who also treats patients on Long Island.
For middle school or older kids who are nervous or scared, that’s the time you need to be straightforward as well as balanced and realistic, Fox says.
Ask them what they specifically are worried about and address that, Fox says. Reassure them that although this has happened in a few places nationwide — including one report earlier this month still under investigation in Nassau County that a man in a purple clown costume approached a 14-year-old from Lakeview and displayed a large kitchen knife — the reality is that the chance of them running into a clown who is going to hurt them on Halloween is really slim, she says. “You really need to demystify that,” Fox says. “Tell them, ‘This is really random. This is very rare. Yes, there have been a few that have threatened people, but nothing has really happened. Let’s not give that a lot of attention.’ ”
Remind them, as always, to stay in a group with friends if trick-or-treating, to be alert and to contact an adult immediately if anything makes them uncomfortable, Fox says. It is important to talk to them about how to react in any situation in which they don’t feel safe so they have those tools, she says.