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<i>Don't</i> Send in the Clowns

Diane Kreyer of Ashburn, VA, thought she had the perfect surprise for her daughter's second birthday party  -- a visit from a clown. That is, until Allison burst into tears, ran upstairs, and refused to come back down.

People in costume  -- whether they're circus characters, trick-or-treaters, or Santa  -- are terrifying to some toddlers. That's because they're just starting to explore the world beyond Mom and Dad, and anything out of the ordinary can be scary.

Your child will eventually learn to recognize a disguise. Until then:

Prepare her. Explain that she may see a character, and what it will look like. If she's seen it on TV or in a book, warn her that it will be larger in person.

Be supportive. Don't tell her she's being silly. Instead, reassure her by recalling times when she overcame fear: "Remember how you used to be scared of Susie's dog? Now you love to pet her!"

Don't push it. Let her watch from afar, until she's ready to approach with you. But it's okay if she refuses  -- many adults steer clear of clowns, too!

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