Every good parent has been there. It’s time for your baby’s first haircut and they seem a little nervous. I remember my son Toby’s first haircut. Me and my husband Decided it was time for our precious, now hippy looking, boy to look ship-shape for my sisters upcoming wedding. Before I knew it Toby was in the barber chair looking dignified with his little robe and collar. He seemed a little nervous when he was sprayed with water, but when the smiling barber picked up his scissors, that’s when my little helpless boy broke town in terrified tears and screams. I quickly stopped the barber from starting the haircut and was horrified when I went home and researched the dangers of haircuts on children.
Most well informed parents have assumed that their children seem a little uneasy during haircuts because it is a new experience with a stranger, but new research shows that haircuts for children are far worse for a developing mind than experts have previously thought.
According to child psychologist, Penelope Leach, children perceive haircuts the same as somebody removing a part of their bodies. Leach continues to say that to a toddler, a haircut is equally as traumatic as clipping off an ear.
As Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph. D, explains, traumatic events for children such as haircuts can cause permanent neurological damage by inhibiting the development of the central nervous system.
“But I can tell when my child is scared,” you may say. You might think you can sense when your baby or toddler is frightened but according to Dr. Perry this is a very difficult task.
If you’re like me, you have read all you can about your baby’s fears. But, until recently, I have never heard of the two ways a child responds to fear. The first is hyper-arousal, which is what my Toby exhibited when he screamed and cried. This reaction clearly shows that your child is being traumatized by the haircut. Dr. Perry warns, though, that this is only one type of response, the other is harder to identify and is called disassociation.
“A child responding to fear in disassociation will remain calm and compliant,” says Dr. Perry.
This makes determining if your child is terrified by a haircut impossible.
“Parents should be cautioned against giving their children haircuts until they are about six years old,” says the president of the Child Anxiety Association of America, Margret Banks. She continued to add, “if your child is under the age of six but you have already giving them haircuts, you can reduce the neurological effects by limiting their haircuts now.”
After researching these articles I was appalled to discover how unknown these long term health effects are to most parents. I find it irresponsible that barbershops or beauty salons don’t place informative signs that warn parents of these effects on our baby’s and toddler’s brains. It is up to us as informed parents to spread the truth and protect all children, not just our own. The research is still new, so I won’t be cutting Toby’s hair until he is eight years old, and I advise that you all do the same.