Ensuring proper attention is paid to hair care and styling will help your child to feel more self-confident. Some parents of multiracial families with black or biracial children report that a great deal of pressure in this area falls on them. They find that their parenting skills are often judged by their ability to care for and style their child’s hair and that the pressure and scrutiny from others is strong.
Learning to style your child’s hair is certainly a cost-saving measure when you consider that having a professional put in cornrows will cost approximately $40 – $50, braiding approximately $60 – $75, and extensions approximately $100 – $200. If you’re doing the styling yourself, however, be prepared to save lots of money but spend lots of time. Some parents estimate that they’re spending four to six hours a week on hair care for each child. Many boys, and some girls, will be happy to keep their hair clipped short, which greatly reduces the time requirement. Whether you have boys or girls, the styling tips and techniques for long hair are the same.
Black hair and the ways in which it is worn are a significant part of black culture. By helping your child in styling and caring for their hair, you can help them to connect with, and take pride in, that part of their cultural heritage.
Though you may find yourself becoming frustrated during the process of learning what’s right for your child’s hair, it’s important to speak positively about their hair as it is a part of who they are and should be something that they can take pride in. There’s no need to try to “fix” their hair. It’s as unique and beautiful as your child. Instilling this sense of pride and confidence in your child around the issue of their hair can help to prepare them to deal with others’ questions, curiosity, and sometimes less than polite comments.
Because the texture and curl of black hair is unique, people are often curious and may even touch someone’s hair without permission. This is inappropriate as we are each entitled to set the boundaries of our own personal space. Children should not be made to feel obligated to allow people—children or adults—to touch their hair without permission. Yvonne suggests that parents can deal with this by saying something like, “My child isn’t crazy about being touched by strangers; I’m sure you understand.” But you can encourage your toddler or older child to simply say, “No thank you,” or, “Please don’t,” if they feel uncomfortable.
Kandace Wood, adoptive mother of two Haitian children—a son, aged five, and a daughter, aged three —says that for their family, finding the best ways to care for black hair came through a good deal of trial and error. And while plenty of people are quick to offer advice, Kandace says, “Every expert you talk to has their own opinion.” And Kandace makes a good point that though one product may work wonders for one child, it may not be right for another. She points out that “bi-racial hair is not as tightly curled as black hair,” so that is something to keep in mind as well. A hair-care tip that has proved invaluable for their family is to use a bit of bees’ wax when braiding.
Vaseline was long considered to be a useful product primarily because, in the past, there wasn’t much else available. Unfortunately, Vaseline is generally too heavy and attracts dirt and dust. This builds up on the hair causing lint balls, which can cause embarrassment for your child. There are many products available that are specially designed for black hair. If you’re having difficulty finding an appropriate product, speak to a professional hair stylist who works with black hair.
Products aside, it’s important to know that black hair needn’t be shampooed daily. In fact, once a week should be sufficient; however, the hair can be rinsed with water as often as is necessary.
Resources for Parents:
- African Am community stores, Salons & Barbershops.
- Web sites such as: pactadopt.org, about.com, adoption.com, families.com, adoptivefamilies.com