How Hair Experimentation Helped These Parents Bond With Their Adopted Child

By RYOT Studio

People are always discovering themselves, but children even more so, as they navigate new elements in their lives and learn what it means to be human. Beauty is just one facet of that newness, as they grow and change and their appearance shifts throughout the years.

As children come into their own, hair starts to become a big part of how they define themselves — even if that changes month-to-month or year-to-year. Experimentation inevitably follows, and big conversations with their parents start taking place based on how drastic these hair changes may be and how much maintenance will be required.

Parents Ellie and Ashley believe this experimentation is crucial to a child’s journey to confidence and self-esteem, and they know this from personal experience. “Being an LGBTQ person growing up, I developed what you would call hair heroes, including David Duchovny and Hugh Grant,” Ellie says. “I remember as a kid spending hours trying to comb my hair certain ways to look like them. So, when it comes to the kids and their different requests, we encourage a lot of experimentation.”

<strong>Ashley and Ellie look at pictures of their family.</strong><br />(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)
Ashley and Ellie look at pictures of their family.
(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)

Ellie and Ashley are advocates for letting their children express themselves, as self-expression and individuality are part of their core family values. “That could be about what hairstyle you want or the clothing you choose, or your gender identity or your sexual orientation,” Ashley says.

“It’s OK to evolve and change and be who you are in whatever way that looks.” — Ashley

Their family story is unique, as Ashley came out in her 30s and Ellie joined the family as what they call the “best bonus mom on the planet.” Their daughters have birth families that they’ve remained in contact with and Ashley’s ex-husband, who is the father of her four kids, has been a supportive ally in their lives.

So, for her and Ellie, the intentionality around positive language and the freedom to express themselves started with the comforting phrase, “We are a family.” Their family motto is “E.L.E.,” which means, “Everybody loves everybody, no matter what path you follow.” Ashley created this mantra to foster connection between their adopted and biological children. “It’s OK to evolve and change and be who you are in whatever way that looks,” Ashley says of what the motto has come to mean for their family now. “And we are going to support you.”

<strong>It&rsquo;s all about hair care for mother Ashley and daughters Lillie and Daisy.</strong><br />(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)
It’s all about hair care for mother Ashley and daughters Lillie and Daisy.
(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)

Ashley and Ellie encourage their daughters to not only express their individuality freely, but to also take pride in who they are. That includes hair, as daughters Daisy and Lillie have different hair textures. “Lillie has very curly hair, and she’s an athlete, so she always has her hair up, back or braided, so that she can do her thing,” Ashley says. “Daisy wants different hairstyles, and braids have been her recent thing.”

They’ve become so much of a signature that Daisy wanted to make sure she had cornrows for their family video (a switch from the box braids her parents mentioned in the video above) to express her unique, signature style. “We’ve also done extensions in different colors and different hair cuts,” Ashley says. “So for us, it’s really explaining to the girls that, just because you don’t necessarily look like your peers, what makes you beautiful is that you are an individual.”

“For us, it’s really explaining to the girls that, just because you don’t necessarily look like your peers, what makes you beautiful is that you are an individual.” — Ashley

As Daisy and Lillie are biracial and live in a community with little diversity, instilling self-esteem in them and how they view themselves has been a journey for Ashley and Ellie that includes transparency around how communities of color have been treated, especially when it comes to hair.

“We’ve had to have tough conversations about how the world may see them and how hair connects to that,” Ashley says. “We want them to know and connect to their birth families, their culture, their identity and their races.” They’re learning to do that as a family, which includes a lot of education and growth on the parental front, as well.

“For young people to feel they have that perception, that huge support — it’s really important.” — Ellie

Ultimately, Ellie’s advice for other parents navigating hair is that letting children explore who they are through experimentation will help them continue to love themselves at every stage of their journey. “I think children try on different personalities when they’re trying on different hair,” she says. “It’s about encouraging them to make sure that they’re bringing the different parts of themselves into that, as well as connecting to their identity, which is essential to their growth.”

<strong>Mothers Ellie and Ashley and daughters Daisy and Lillie discuss hair care.</strong><br />(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)
Mothers Ellie and Ashley and daughters Daisy and Lillie discuss hair care.
(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)

And Ashley believes inspiring their embrace of, not only their own differences but those they see in others, is the way to make their hair — and overall beauty journeys — fun. “We don’t need to make the same choices with our style and how we present each and every day, but that doesn’t make us any less,” she says. “My advice to parents is to see what your kids bring to the table and you will be surprised at how amazing they are and how fun they can be.” Ellie adds, “For young people to feel they have that perception, that huge support — it’s really important.”



From Pantene:
For LGBTQ adoptive parents, every opportunity to connect matters. Caring for their children’s hair is one of them. Pantene wants every family to feel beautiful and knows hair care helps build unforgettable bonds. Visit www.familyequality.org/pantene to learn more.


This article was paid for by Pantene and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.