Hair Positivity And How Parents Can Cultivate It
Case in point: the affirmative relationship adoptive parents Robbi and Raymond have with their daughter Ella. When talking about Ella’s hair, they use words such as “beautiful” and “proud” that not only convey to the world how much they love her hair, but also ensure Ella feels that same kind of hair positivity.
“She came out with a full head of hair, so we had to figure out how to wash her hair from the very beginning,” Robbi says. “My husband and I have short hair, so we’re used to just using generic shampoo, and that’s it. With Ella, we knew there’d be a lot more maintenance, because her hair was so beautiful and luscious and textured. We had to come up with a routine that worked, and we had to get her comfortable.”
These affirmations have a real-life impact. In an ongoing partnership between Pantene and Yale University, Marianne LaFrance, Emerita Professor of Psychology and of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, found a direct link between hair and identity. While studying the importance of hair to women in March 2019, LaFrance and Pantene found that hair is the number one attribute in women’s expression of who they really are, and that it was the fourth ranked attribute in determining how good women feel about themselves. So, promoting hair positivity and love from an early age can have a powerful effect that will last for decades afterward.
Support starts from the simplest encouraging words to developing bonding rituals that instill patience and respect in children for their own hair and the hair of others. Here are some steps parents can take to foster an environment of hair positivity in their homes, their lives and their communities.
Use affirming and encouraging words about your children’s hair
Words matter, so use the best and most reassuring when speaking to your children about their hair. Whether that’s letting them know their hair is beautiful every single day when you’re styling it and taking care of it, or setting affirmations like “I love my hair” that they can repeat every day, these self esteem-boosting phrases and mantras will last throughout the years and as they enter into a world full with diversity of hair textures and types.
Set a great example by being affirmative and positive about your own hair
Children are like sponges, so let them soak up the positivity you’re spreading about your own hair. If you already do this, then it’s easy and your little ones have probably already picked up that love of their hair from you. But if you’ve been known to say a negative thing or two about your own strands in their presence, then you’d be surprised at how quickly they may take on similar behavior. So, after you’ve developed affirmations for them, then you can create some for yourself, putting them into practice by typing them into your phone or placing them next to your mirror until they become second nature.
Develop a hair ritual that makes hair care a fun experience
Robbi and Raymond cultivate a nightly hair ritual with Ella that involves washing her hair and talking. Through that tradition, they make the daily experience enjoyable and another fun part of their lives that allows them to bond. When nurturing their hair becomes a way of life, it shows children their hair is important, special and something to admire. You can make this a nightly affair like Robbi, Raymond and Ella with the hair washing process or a weekly celebration that might include hair styling or a comforting scalp massage to show how good taking care of their hair can be.
“She’s always loved us brushing her hair, because it’s a time when we read a story or a time when she was able to watch videos,” Raymond says. “We make it as fun as we can with toys, water crayons and sprinklers. We want to make sure she knows how important it is to take care of herself.”
Share the words of encouragement with anyone who interacts with your children’s hair
Affirmations at home are only one part of forging positivity as children go out into the world and will hear any number of things about their hair. No one can control the actions of others, but you can work to make sure that anyone who interacts with your children’s hair continues building that encouragement. From the person who will give them their first haircut to your family members and their babysitter, be unafraid of sharing your hair positivity philosophy so everyone in your inner circle can get on board.
Build community to step in and support when you need it
“For Ella’s hair, it really connects to her heritage,” Robbi says in the video above. “Her birth mother is Indian and her birth father is from the Caribbean, so we try to make her have that connection to those cultures, and we always want her to feel really proud of it.” For Robbi and Raymond that also includes connecting with their friends from Indian and Caribbean cultures and asking questions, so they can educate themselves.
Sharing your own hair journey with your child, looking at pictures of their grandparents’ hair, or even the hair of people in their community who look like them can build a bridge between them and their culture. This is especially important if you’re a parent looking to navigate hair care and want to inform yourself along with your child.
“As two gay dads with a beautiful daughter, there are a ton of questions we have about things we never experience,” Raymond says. “I literally just put up a post saying, ‘Daddy S.O.S. Help’, and myriad comments came in from our women friends. A lot of our fellow dads who have daughters and learned the hard way also help.” Their most important advice is to be unafraid of saying “I don’t know” which gives your community the chance to jump in and support you.