Fear of People Dressed in Costumes

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Hopeforbetterdays, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. Hopeforbetterdays

    Hopeforbetterdays Hopeforbetterdays

    How do you help a child that is very afraid of people dressed in characters, costumes, and mascots? This week was Cat in the Hat Week and it has been a trying time for us. He has been terrified and jumpy when he comes home. Trying to get him to bed has been an absolute nightmare with my husband sleeping on the floor beside the bed until he falls asleep.

    His teacher even called me today because someone peeked into the class room and was wearing the Dr. Seuss hat and he leaped over the table into the teacher's lap. She said she about needed another teacher to pry him off. It will take us a month to get over this.

    Does anybody have any suggestions on how to help him confront his fears?:furious:
  2. sandman3

    sandman3 New Member

    I don't know how old your son is, but mine was TERRIFIED of anyone in costume until he was about 4-5 yrs old. Santa and all! Wouldn't go near them....so I didn't make him. We have NO pictures on Santa's lap, or the Easter Bunny or anything else....he just grew out of the fear on his own.

    Not sure this helps you but just thought I'd share!
  3. dreamer

    dreamer New Member

    I am not sure if I would call it "confronting the fear" exactly. Many children are afraid or leery of persons in costumes. People in costumes are not who they appear to be, and children sense that, and it sends a mixed signal to them. Most people DO like to know who they are dealing with.
    Does your child ever play "dress up" or "lets pretend" or "superhero"? Does (s)he watch cartoons? I would go slow and gentle and explain slowly, "see how much fun this is to dress up, as someone-something else"? "we can play pretend this way". I would play some dress up, and play looking in a mirror, and dress up with my child, with my child watching, to show my child it is "fun" it is a "game" and slowly, over a period of time, let your child experiment with this whole idea.
    Maybe your child would then understand the whole concept better and be less anxious about it?
  4. dreamer

    dreamer New Member

    It also occured to me that many times when someone is wearing a costume, - sometimes the costumed person gets a little over active, and can seem to get too close to the children, and a child can feel like their personal space has been violated, but so often the people who only wear costumes on very rare occasions seem to forget some children might be afraid....and they might come "at" the children, and some costumes make a person seem so much larger than a non costumed person.and some people in costume do more exagerated body language or speak louder, in addition to getting more physically close to the children. (I think people who wear costumes a LOT seem to understand betetr that they might overwhelm some children by their mere size and presence, and they seem to hold back better, do not reach out to the children phsyically as much)
  5. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Fear of costumes is a very normal fear for children, even those without any neurological differences. My oldest easy child didn't want to go near stores during the holiday season because of those evil Santa Clauses that were unavoidable out in the world out there.

    Most of the time kids outgrow this on their own, usually about the time they decide they want to dress up for Halloween along with the rest of their classmates. Once they get on their own costumes, somehow the rest don't seem so scary because they grasp the change/change back aspect. Does he ever play with costumes at home or with friends?

    I don't think I'd take any steps to have your son confront this at this time. I would help to create some safe zones for him: ask teacher would hang up a NO COSTUME sign on the classroom door for the rest of the week, giving him an alternative if they'll be doing a Cat in the Hat assembly.

    A month to get over this is pretty long. Does your son have any other extreme anxieties like this?
  6. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I have only one picture of Miss KT with Santa...she was three months old. She refused to go near Santa, even after I did my "This is Santa, he brings toys" routine and we watched him at the mall many, many times. Other giant costumed creatures didn't bother her, though. The only reason I can think of is because I usually hugged the other creatures first, so that made it OK for her.
  7. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    My easy child has always been terrified of people in costumes, from Santa to CHip & Dale to Mickey at Disney. It was the masks...the facial disguises that got her.

    As dreamer suggested, we bought a lot of dress up clothing and both my children being girls it was easy to make it a fun time. We started only with outfits, worked her up to things like hats, wings, funny glasses, and scarves, and then eventually she would wear those half masks.

    It seems (yes, at 20 she's still terrified of those big costumed animals) that as long as she can see at least part of the person's 'real' face, she can get past it. But, if the person is wearing a head costume, which blocks all recognition, she still gets a little freaked. When she was little it would take a while before she settled down at bedtime. When we went to Disney the first time we even had to skip parts of our planned trip to avoid running into any costumed characters!

    Buying lots of dress up clothes helped quite a bit. Other than doing it naturally, however, I would not push him to 'get over it' as that could make it worse.
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Each of my kids has gone through this. I am not sure how old the child is, but this is a very common fear.

    (I once had a friend with no kids who worked in a daycare tell me she found the kids show Barney to be unhealthy because the kids were alone in a school with a person in a costume who could be any sort of pedophile or predator! I chuckled as I had 2 kids into Barney.)

    It is an interesting thing though - parents and schools work hard on the concept of strangers and the dangers associated, but we are surprised or worried when the children are wary or afraid of a person who's entire face and body are hidden. Just my take.

    As costumes are only a big deal a bit of the time in school and real life, it may be worthwhile to just relax and let the child cope as he/she does. If the anxiety is causing problems in everyday life, then a therapist may have some ideas.

    I know my totally open to everyone, loves the world nephew had a phobia about clowns from birth on. His dad's mom made an entire nursery theme for them in clowns. They had to hide it.

    Sorry school found it to be such a problem. Can you work with them on ways to reassure him? I think it is good that he felt comfortable enough with the teacher to jump into her lap.


  9. SRL

    SRL Active Member

  10. Hopeforbetterdays

    Hopeforbetterdays Hopeforbetterdays

    Thanks for all the responses. My son is 5 years old. He has always been very terrified of costumes and characters. Even if someone just had their face painted he still freaks out. We have no pictures of him with Santa, The Easter Bunny, or anything. We don't do Halloween either because he doesn't even like the other children dressed up. I tried one year to dress him and his brother (who is 3) up as vampires and paint their faces. It just didn't work. I think I will just let him move at his own pace with some attempt to get him to dress as a super hero or something and see if we can get him to slowly to understand that this is fun and their is nothing to be afraid of.

    I agree a month is a long time for him to get over it but he still talks about the Curious George that was at his school and that was last Halloween. He just doesn't forget anything like that for a while

    We are planning over the summer to try to visit a police station and a fire hall to see them dressed in their uniforms and see how he react to someone dressed up but their face isn't. Wish us luck.

    I feel somewhat better now. Everything just seems so overwhelming when it hits all at one time. It just seems like there is never a dull moment with my little boy. A dull moment would be welcomed occassionally. :D
  11. dreamer

    dreamer New Member

    I am not sure I would do a "total immersion" as would be by visiting police dept or firehouse. That might be way too many people, too many uniforms etc all at one time in one place, and the police station or firehouse themself also might be overwhelming, too.

    Maybe instead of dressing as vampires, you could do something more "innocent"
    A simple bath towel can be a superhero cape....a hooded sweathsirt or jacket can be a puppy or bunny or kitty...just for play, not for any "event" I think there are even bathtwoels or beach towels for kids that sorta double as a costume like thing..... I would let it be up to him to do it or not, up to him whether to take it off or not...not discuss it a lot, just a little wee bit....kind of in passing..gosh look, superman!

    Do you wear face makeup? has he ever watched you put it on or take it off?

    My oldest was always (and continues to be) afraid of clowns...my youngest has always enjoyed dressing in funny get ups.....and my kids have all always loved trick or treating since..well since their first halloween- BUT they did occasionally get skittish around people in costumes, ESPECIALLY when it was in a place you normally do NOT see costumed people. (like school, our school has not in my kids lifetime permitted ANYthing even remotely costumish) I have wondered if my kids picked up on the idea that there are "approprrriate" behaviors and codes of dress etc for certain places? and if the dress of someone does not match the code of conduct for the environment, it seems to be a biigger problem? My kids never minded santa or easter bunny, but did not like the costumed person at the restaurant on "Kids Nite"- but, maybe thats becuz they knew people do not waer costumes and walk table to table any other time. - so in mykids eye, this was "wrong" and not "normal" and it made them more uneasy. But at the circus, my kids did not mind at all (except for oldest and the clowns)
  12. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I agree that a visit to the fire station or a costume with face paint for this purpose is a huge leap from where he is. As Dreamer mentioned, starting small and easing in would be more likely to be successful. If he's into any of the heros boys are usually into these days (Transformers, Bionicles, etc) make those types of costumes available. If he's into firefighters or something real, then go that route. Don't make a big deal of it, just bring it home and add it to the toy box. Accessories such as shields are always good too.
  13. Hopeforbetterdays

    Hopeforbetterdays Hopeforbetterdays

    Sometimes, I wish my child just had an instruction booklet. It would make life so much easier.:furious:

    Although, on a postive note he did have a good day at school tpday but looking back over the week it's been rather a tough one.
  14. Lulu

    Lulu New Member

    Sorry things were tough this past week. I'm glad to hear today was good, though. Small blessings, right? My N was horrified at the Cinderella who entertained at his classmate's birthday party. He wouldn't go near her, even when she handed out the candy and toys! He covered his eyes the whole time she was telling her story and leading the games. I think it's a common thing, but I'm not sure how to make the transition out of the fear.

    My son hates it when I wear makeup and fancy jewelry. I think it might be part of the looking-like-what-you-are-not problem. You'd think it'd be good for my self-esteem that he likes me like I am, but it seems to work the opposite on me--I feel like he hates me when I am supposed to be feeling confident! :(

    Instruction booklets would be helpful. Hope you can have a nice weekend.
  15. Xxx

    Xxx New Member

    I myself suffer from this phobia, and I know that dressing up is supposed to be fun, but it's not as simple as just being told it's fun. I dressed up (reluctantly) but that didn't make me any less scared of people dressed up. It may not be that your child has this phobia, but it might be something to keep in mind, because you may be scaring him more the more you try to get him to have "fun".
  16. Xxx

    Xxx New Member

    While I understand what you're saying, if the child has an actual phobia of people dressed up, saying it's fun and trying to slowly introduce them to it isn't going to help. Not that you're wrong at all, just that it's something people should keep in mind (I have that phobia and I am regularly being prodded into situations where I am uncomfortable and upset because people don't understand how afraid I am, and they think I'm just not trying to have "fun" - and I amn't a child, so I can express myself, but a child may not be able to.)