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Children's Hairstyles

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Most young people will appreciate parental help with the process of deciding what hairstyle to choose and which hair products to use - provided that this guidance is offered in a loving and constructive manner. Parents should balance their desire to provide such guidance against their children's need to learn to make independent decisions.

hairbrush and combAllowing children to have a say, if not the deciding vote, in determining their individual hairstyles is important. In the end, it doesn't really matter if Johnny wants to have a buzz cut or a shaggy cut, or if Emily wants to wear a pony tail. If too much hair comes off as a result of a novelty cut, it will grow back. Parents do need to be aware of school dress codes, however, and make sure that children's hairstyle choices conform to such codes. They should explain to their children how much work or effort will be required for particular hairstyles. Longer hair or more complicated cuts will take more time to wash, to comb, to dry, and to style.

As well, parents should take children's individual hair characteristics into account during haircuts. Some hairstyles will not be practical for individual children based on hair texture or lifestyle. For instance, children who are on a competitive swim team will do better with shorter hair that is quick and easy to shampoo, style, and fit into a swim cap. Similarly, children living in a busy family with limited time available during the morning routine for independent hairstyling should not be encouraged to choose a time and labor intensive hairstyle.

Some hairstyles will require the regular use of heat styling tools, including hair dryers, curling irons and flat irons, as a part of their routine maintenance. Parents need to carefully supervise the use of such tools as they can be dangerous. Serious burns can happen quickly. As well, children may forget to turn these tools off before leaving the house, resulting in substantial fire risk as well as unnecessary use of electricity. Electric hair styling tools used near water also create a substantial risk of electrocution and possible death.

Children should be trained in the safe use of needed electric haircare tools. As part of this training, unsafe practices should be explicitly pointed out to children, and safer practices should be modeled. For instance, it is never safe to use an electric styling tool near water. All electric styling tools should be shut off and unplugged immediately after children are done with their use. In addition to this instruction, parents should also make sure that electrical outlets present in areas where children might use these tools are properly grounded and feature ground-fault-interrupter (GFI) circuitry if they are at all near a water source. Parents might also consider buying newer versions of heat styling tools, with safety features such as automatic shutoff switches, if the tools they presently own do not have such safety features.