LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - At her home in Lamar County, Monica Leggett makes sure her two girls follow a schedule during the week.
It is a familiar routine for most parents, such as homework before dinner.
A few weeks ago, Leggett said that schedule was interrupted when she heard the panic in the voice of her youngest 8-year-old Ivy.
"We were leaving her after school program and she got in the car, like she always do, I was driving and she was like, 'Mama!' Leggett said.
Leggett said Ivy started to cry and shake and told her, she was told clowns are taking black children.
"'Why did they tell you that? Who told you that?' And she was just saying the girl on the bus said it," Leggett said.
She recalled it took days of comforting and convincing Ivy she was safe, but she was scared at home and at school.
"Her grades slipped. We had a couple of low grades," Leggett said.
With Halloween around the corner, Leggett said she is trying to make sure her little one does not come in contact with her source of anxiety.
That's something Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services Clinical Psychologist Mallory Malkin can understand.
"Nobody likes to see that fear in their child," Malkin said.
Malkin said a parent's initial instinct is to protect, but a remedy to the natural fears kids have is exposure.
"Not to shy away from the conversation, because keeping it in the dark is going to make that fear grow and grow and grow," Malkin said.
Malkin advised parents to teach kids an unfortunate reality, stranger danger.
"It doesn't matter whether they are dressed like Barney or a clown, in a Halloween situation if you are not familiar with the adult, you don't go out there, you don't go up to them or follow with them for trick or treating," Malkin said.
Malkin explained she cannot tell a family what to do if potential clown sightings make parents hesitant, she can only advise them to do what feels right for the family. And for Leggett that means pre-planning trick or treating.
"Just to keep her from bumping into maybe somebody that just doing it as prank," Leggett said.