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8 Tips to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Haircuts

by | May 20, 2024 | Hair help, Parenting

Many kids are afraid of haircuts. That’s just a fact. So, if your child is one of them, you’re not alone. And there are also many things you can do as a parent or caregiver to help your little ones overcome their fears and take the scary out of “scary haircuts”. It just requires a little awareness, pre-planning and empathy. Read on to discover what’s really going on when your child is afraid to get a haircut and what you can do about it. And remember…you’ve got this!

In terms of fear and anxiety, getting a haircut for most of us is no biggie, right? But for kids it can often be a BIG SCARY DEAL.

Sometimes that’s because it’s their first haircut and as we all know FIRSTS can be frightening.

But your child might also be afraid or uncomfortable with haircuts because they’ve had a negative experience with a haircut somewhere along the way. Or maybe they don’t like to be touched or don’t deal well with unfamiliar places. Or perhaps your child has special needs or sensory differences.

Then there’s also “Stranger Anxiety.” It’s real, no you’re not imagining this.  This is a normal developmental stage that often starts at around 6-8 months and peaks between 12 and 15 months. And then usually begins to lessen as your baby gets older. But if you try to take your baby to a salon during this phase, it might be a bit rough.

Whatever the cause, the big question is, what can you do when your child is frightened of getting a haircut? Other than never cutting their hair and renaming them Rapunzel (which frankly could lead to all kinds of other issues…).

Luckily, we’re here to help. Here are 8 tips gleaned from the experienced staff at our mom-owned and operated kids’ hair salon, KidSnips.  Tips born out of our 25+ years of cutting and styling the hair of all kinds of kids, of all ages, with all levels of shyness, fear, timidity and overall wiggley-squiggleyness. Including kids who are especially sensitive to touch, noise, and smells and kids on the autism spectrum or with Down syndrome.

We hope these tips help – and at the very least remind you that you’re not the only one dealing with this – and your kid isn’t the ONLY one who hates haircuts. And also, that this isn’t an unsolvable issue.

Tip #1: See Things From Their POV.

“Unfamiliar” is generally considered un-good/un-fun/unlikeable by most kids, especially younger ones. It’s a developmental thing. So, whenever we, as parents, say, with our most happy and excited voice: “Oh honey, it’ll be new and different” our kids hear: “Oh no, it’ll be scary and awful and YUCKY.”

Getting a haircut is full of the dreaded “new and different” – big sharp scissors in the hands of a stranger (“haven’t you told me to stay away from scissors and strangers, Mom????”), weird loud noises from hair dryers and clippers, strange new smells from shampoos and gels and hairsprays, not to mention, there’s someone spritzing them with water and CUTTING OFF THEIR HAIR! (“That’s my hair…mine!”) Now, that you think about it…it is kinda scary.

Just recognizing that can go a long way. You can pull on your patient-parent-pants and find all the empathetic bones in your body…and NOT say things like, “It’s just a haircut, get over it.” Or “Don’t move or she’ll cut you.” Trust us, this won’t help make things easier. For either of you.

Tip #2: Share Books and Videos About Haircuts.

Did you know there’s a book where Daniel Tiger (yes, from Mr. Roger’s neighborhood) gets a haircut? Or one about a llama getting a haircut for picture day at school? There are also ones about monsters and overly hairy sheep getting haircuts. And even a few about just regular kids getting their hair cut as well.  Pick up one or two from your local library or bookstore and start working these books into your child’s bedtime or other storybook reading routine. You can also find plenty of adorable videos about kids getting haircuts on YouTube. Just Google “kids getting a haircut” and take your pick. We thought this one was pretty sweet.

Tip # 3: Play Pretend “Hair Salon” At Home.

A lot of kids like to play pretend. Whether that’s playing chef in the kitchen, teacher in the classroom or doctor in the hospital. So why not play hair salon? This might be a great chance to get in touch with your inner hair stylist and set up a little kid-sized salon at home and pretend to cut your child’s hair. They might want to pretend to cut and style your hair too. You could use an actual loud hair dryer to help them get used to that sound. Or put on sheets as capes. Just remember, don’t use real scissors…for obvious reasons! (By the way, you can also get kids’ hair styling playsets wherever you buy toys – we loved the vibe of this one – but there are plenty of others out there to choose from.)

You could also set up a dolls’ hair salon and you and your child could both be the hair stylists. However, you do it, use this as an opportunity to talk through the experience of getting a haircut and what to expect. It’s a great way to see what questions or issues come up for them and address them in a positive way…before they go for the actual haircut.

Tip #4: Pick a Kid-Friendly Salon and Visit Before Haircut Day.

We suggest you call ahead and talk to any salon you’re considering for your child’s haircut to see what they offer to help kids feel at ease. We also highly recommend a kid-friendly salon like KidSnips. Every KidSnips is designed with kids in mind –  it’s bright and colorful, complete with chairs shaped like fire engines and taxi cabs and more,  walls lined with toys, and other kids getting haircuts in cool looking capes…while having coveted screen time. And at KidSnips we only hire stylists who actually LIKE children. You know as an adult what a difference it makes to your haircut experience if you have a friendly hair stylist who seems to like you, versus well…the opposite of that. This makes a HUGE difference for kids too.

When your kids visit ahead of time, they will get a feel for the atmosphere and know better what to expect and instead of dreading getting a haircut, they might actually look forward to going there. You could casually stop by with your child several days before their appointment and just look around.

Tip #5: Pick Their Right Timing.

You know your child better than anyone and you know what their best times of day are. Think about that when you book their appointment. When are they usually feeling most positive and happy during the day? Is it morning? Afternoon after lunch or after nap time? Using their natural rhythms as your guide, try to plan their haircut accordingly…making sure this isn’t the time of day they tend to be hungry or tired is always smart. You might also want to plan ahead on the day of your appointment and think about limiting some of their other activities that day so they aren’t already over-stimulated when they come in, or rushed, or have been forced to leave an activity they were enjoying to come to get their haircut.

Tip # 6: Provide Comfort & Rewards.

Does your child have a “lovey” – a comfort object of some kind? If so, feel free to invite the beloved Blankie, Teddy or Piggie or Puppy or Whale with them to their haircut…stuffed animals only please! Is there something else that brings them comfort? Wearing their dance tu-tu or some favorite shoes? A princess dress or their superhero outfit? Let them wear whatever they are most comfortable in (as long as it doesn’t involve tiaras or hats or horned Viking helmets or other head coverings that might interfere with a haircut). You might want to also give them some sort of reward or treat after the cut. At KidSnips, every child gets to pick out a small toy afterwards and with their parent’s permission, they can also choose a small piece of candy. Many kids also feel rewarded at KidSnips by getting to watch videos and have “extra” screen time during their cut. But there may be something else that your child especially likes to do that you could reward them with. You could promise to play their favorite game with them when they get home, for example. Or if your child likes to go to the park, you might make that a reward. The idea is simply to combine something the child has positive associations with to the haircut. The science types who study this sort of thing call this “positive reinforcement” and it’s been shown in a number of studies to encourage good or positive behaviors in kids.

Tip # 7: Make Their First Haircut Special.

We can’t emphasize this enough. Firsts are always hard. For kids and frankly for a lot of adults as well. And their first haircut will be a first for both of you. For you, “YOUR BABY IS GETTING THEIR BABY HAIR CUT OFF!” All the feels, right? And for them (as mentioned above) so much new and different to deal with. SOOOOO much. That’s why, after you’ve done all the prep we’ve talked about in Tips 1-6, it’s a great idea to add to it the idea of a family celebration. A special day all about them.

One way you might make it special? Invite the grandparents or other family members or close friends to join. Bring a camera and take lots of pictures. Bring balloons and make it feel like a party. (If you bring balloons you might want to bring a lot so that every child in the salon that day could have one. You don’t want other kids crying desperately for a balloon during your child’s milestone moment.) At KidSnips we also help make the big day awesome and full of good memories by creating a personalized certificate that has your child’s photo and a lock of hair with it…something you can add to your baby book. All of this for the price of a regular kid’s haircut. We’ve found when you make their first haircut enjoyable, kids are often much less likely to dread haircuts 2 through 102.

Tip #8: Remember Tears Are Just Tears.

You can do all the things we’ve suggested…and more…and you may still find yourself with a child who’s NOT HAPPY about getting a haircut. And the tears flow. That happens. But at KidSnips our stylists know how to just roll with it. We don’t get rattled by crying – or upset with your child or you about it. We just work with you and your little one to make it the best possible experience it can be. Want to hold your child on your lap for the cut? No problem. Does your child need to stand or get on the floor or explore while we snip? Often we can make that work too. We’re known for doing whatever it takes. If you think it would help, we also have lollipops and bubbles for your child to blow during the cut – just ask. And if it just gets to be too much for your child (or for you!) during their appointment, we can also press pause, and you can bring them in on another day to finish their haircut (at no additional cost).

At KidSnips we’ve thought… a lot…about how to make kids’ haircuts less scary. So, if there are questions we haven’t answered here, feel free to call any of our seven Chicagoland locations and talk with someone personally. We’ve also created a free guide to help you walk through what to expect with your child. You can download that here.

We hope these tips help – they’ve worked for many kids. But as you know, nothing works for all kids.  We can’t promise if you follow all these suggestions your child will love haircuts. But we can promise that we will try to make sure every child has a good time here. Because we know happy haircuts ARE possible. We see smiles like this every day.

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