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Growing Pains- Tweens and Natural Hair

By January 27th, 202132 Comments
Learning to embrace your natural hair as adult is challenging enough… try doing it in middle school! Check out the Curl to Curl questions below and weigh in!
Growing Pains- Tweens and Natural HairHaving a Natural Tantrum
by Adriana S Fleury

As a natural who is trying to find her way in this natural realm, I find myself throwing more tantrums than experiencing the joy of this journey. To make matters worst, I am also in charge of the journey of my 12 year old daughter…double trouble!

I follow the natural hair blogs and sites such as Curly Nikki, Naturally Curly, etc, in search of how to take care of our hair. I think I’m getting there, however the issue is with my child. I’m taking in all I can to properly educate her, but she is not having it. She refuses to do twist or braid-outs– she thinks they’re “babyish”. She loves doing wash & go’s, but they’re drying her hair out.

It’s difficult already with a pre-teen in the mix of unique style and fashion choices, trying to be cool and popular… adding hair to the equation only complicates things.

How do I help her embrace her natural hair and try new styles?


Growing Pains- Tweens and Natural Hair

Rhonda writes:

Pre-Teen Transitioning-When is it ok?

I LOVE your site and stalked it for quite a while before I got up the courage to transition. My last relaxer was in October 2009 and my BC was in April 2010. Whenever someone asks me about my hair I’m always quick to refer them to your site because I know without it I wouldn’t be where I am today, loving my hair for everything it is and everything it is not!

Your site has provided me with plenty of information to persuade people into embracing their natural hair. However, after talking with one of my sorority sisters I ran full speed into a brick wall when I couldn’t offer suggestions on when it would be “ok” for her 6th grade daughter to transition and go natural!!! We have all been in middle school and know how un-accepting and cruel some kids can be when it comes to being “different”. As adults it’s easier for us to ignore the comments BUT having had my own little “Come to Jesus” talk with myself after my BC I know that accepting your natural hair is a physical and mental process that could be too difficult for a child. I would never suggest the BC because braids or other protective styles could assist with the transition BUT once the hair is 100% natural what would be the next step in getting the girl to embrace a natural texture she has never seen or had to deal with? Although I would feel like a hypocrite going along with a child continuing to get relaxers until a certain age, I can definitely empathize with a mother of a pre-teen daughter who is scared of the backlash her child might receive for going natural.

With that said, CN Community when it is ok for a pre-teen to transition?


  • Liz says:

    My name is Liz, i'm 11 yrs. old, and I've been getting my hair relaxed since I was like four or five. I would wear little ponytails and twists to pre k and kindergarten. In first grade i started getting braid extensions so my mom wouldn't have to spend a lot of time on my hair. Even though I wore braids I still got my hair relaxed when they were taken down. My hair would get hot combed of blown out and then sometimes flat ironed. Then back to braids. In third and fifth grade I wore my hair down relaxed and flat ironed. I didn't and don't know what my hair really looks like. I know it's curly and kinky but that's it. Well I haven't had a relaxer since February of 2012 and right now it's July of 2012. So I'm transitioning, but I don't know how long i'm going to.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi,I am 12 and am in the sixth grade.I am a tranisitioner I got my last perm in Februaary and haven't had one since.
    I say yeah your right it is a tough situation to be in. But right now I have not fully transitioned. I have about two to three inches of natural hair and about 3 inches of permed. i go to a beautican every 2 weeks to get my hair flat ironed. My plan is when I get to a certain lenth and the perm is all out I will were it natural.
    So to answer the question i think you you should let her transistion but you just have to make sure that as a mother you are on top of your game. Make sure she is not getting bullyed. Make sure she is comfortable with herself. And by doing that she will be okay.

  • msjoker says:

    I'm super late to this post, but I was specifically looking for tween references today. Someone commented that maybe the child feels differently if they never have a relaxer; I can tell you that's not always the case. I am all over this site and others lately, looking for ways to do my daughter's hair that will be "acceptable". Acceptable=satisfying her wanting to fit in with her 11 year old friends/relatives and her father/stepmother. I have a relaxer and am not anti-relaxer, but at 11 I feel that she has not developed an appreciation for beauty in all its forms. She "sorta" likes her hair, but as is often human nature she wants the look the majority is wearing and I fear that includes her Caucasian classmates. It helps when other adults comment on her big, beautiful hair but it is a wearying battle, especially when the other family is not on board. Who wants to be accused of baby mama drama over their child's hair? Puhleez! I had her read Raven-Symone's interview today, so hopefully another point on the curly side!

  • Eboni Morgan says:

    I think you should let her transition for sure! Now it's a bit different because I myself am a teen (14) and I decided to go natural myself. It will be harder for her because shes so used to not feeling her natural texture, or dealing with it, but I think if you do the BC now, and get it over with- it will only get easier! Not only will having her natural hair out bring along brightening compliments, but it will also force her to love who she is- and her hair. It may teach her to be strong, and ignore the commments this way! Just a thought, hope this helps!! :) Good Luck!

  • Shonna says:

    Im currently struggling with this issue with my 9 year old (soon to be 10 y.o.)

    I transitioned for one year before finally doing the BC this September. I also have a 6 y.o. daughter who has never been relaxed.

    My oldest daughter thinks that if her hair is not straight, flat ironed and/or silky that it is not acceptable. She says she loves my hair but I am a 3c and she is about 4b.

    She had a relaxer but I no longer want to relax her. She has suffered tremendous hair damage from it. I have tried several styles with her. We just took her hair down from kinky twist this weekend which she wore 7 weeks. After taking them down I lightly pressed it with a straightening comb. She is constantly begging for micro braids which Im not totally opposed too but because her edges are so fine I hate her having them.

    We battle constantly on how she is going to wear her hair. I have finally had to tell her that "Im the boss" and she will wear her hair how I say.

  • Curly Hairdo Ideas says:

    As long as they have someone to help them through the emotional aspects and role models (even online!) to look up to, I don't think it's ever too early.

    Now, to do a BC and let them go – NO! But to be there, helping them through and teaching them how to care for curls in a way that will empower them and really make them believe how gorgeous they are just the way they are – Never too early.

    In fact in some ways I think the earlier, the better. Why go through those years with one more facade? It's a time of growth and learning about yourself anyway – that can include hair care and hair-love! :D

    p.s. Great comments so far! and I Loooove the videos by sesame street and Willow :) So does my 2 year old! :D As we watched the muppet singing about loving her hair, Q started singing along, "I love my haaair!!" :D Can't get much better than that.

  • Anonymous says:

    If the girl is ready to go through with the transition then why not? Most likely she wont want to bc, but there are plenty of transition styles to choose from. And who knows, kids sometimes surprise you. I was shocked when i bc'd in 11th grade and seldom got rude comments.

  • KCAS says:

    Have you shown her Teri's site ? If she had the chance to read her book (Curly Like me), maybe it could help her. Teri's story is enchanting!! Who knows? Maybe the girl likes Curly Primer method. If I had the chance to see a her like Teri's one when I was teenager, I think I'd have given up of relaxers at that time and would start love my hair instead of keeping forcing my hair to be what it didn't want to.

  • Stephanie says:

    I think you should talk with her about it. Even at a young age she understands hair. I always wanted to go natural when I was younger once I realized how damaging the perms were. But my mother continued to perm and press her own hair and I needed more support so I never really stuck with it.
    But if I had access to all of the styles that are available now I would have been more successful. You should plan out the journey together. That should make it easier.

  • Jasmine says:

    Hey I ran across this while visiting another site, and thought yall should see how "Free" from Bet Live 101 Park Natural hair is gorgeous.
    Here's the link to her blog

  • Anonymous says:

    edit: Keep her hands out of mine.

  • Anonymous says:

    As a parent of daughters aged 22 and 26, I would advise mothers to TRANSITION daughters interested in natural hair.

    I remember when my eldest entered HS that her insistence on flat ironing and heat curling damaged her relaxed 4c hair.

    My husband started loc'ing in 2001, and then she BC'd the summer of 2002 after her HS graduation. She wore braid extensions for several months in her senior year and that summer, and finally declared that she wanted that itchy stuff off her head NOW!

    I believe the braid extension transition helped her to firmly commit to the big chop and locs. Her courage, and her gorgeous shoulder length loc's encouraged me to BC in 2009.

    My youngest remains relaxed, but likes to style her sister's hair and can't keep her hair out of mine.

  • caracara says:

    My 14-yr old has been natural all her life and is the exact opposite. She ususally wears twist styles on dry hair. She only began wearing twist-outs this month. It is a big plus to me that she does her own twists and flat twists and can be as creative as she wants. We look for ideas online and she likes to recreate the styles. Her next adventure is to learn how to cornrow and braid.

  • Anonymous says:

    Absolutely!!!!! I'm 15 and I've been transitioning almost 5 months. I've gotten lots of compliments on my styles (like braid outs). When I hit a rut, I look at girls like Willow Smith, Yara Shahidi and realize that if they can love their natural hair and are younger, I should be able to.

  • Jess says:

    A writer for Sesame Street just created an awesome video to boost self-esteem all about loving your hair. I realize Sesame Street may be a little young for your pre-teen, but it's never too late to boost her self-esteem. Hair doesn't define you just like clothes and other accessories don't make you who you are. At some point we've got to teach our children to embrace themselves and don't get caught up in appearances. What's important is that she's healthy (and even that goes beyond hair).

  • Anonymous says:

    here is a thought, but maybe you should transition her mind and well as her hair. as a parent, it would be a good idea to talk with her about handling any type of tough situation at school before hand. build her confidence up that way she is armed in more than one way; not only will she look fly, but she will believe that she is fly.

  • Anonymous says:

    Transitioning is probably difficult for a child, but when you start them off with their hair natural they grow accustomed to it, I think? I will see in a few years…

  • Ms. Understood says:

    Thank you for posting this like you i an also dealing with a teenage daughter that decided to go natural and to support her i too found the courage to go natural as well and i love it, like you i am all about education myself so that i can deal with my new hair texture as well as my daughter. She has NO interst t in really doing anything to her hair until it grows to a point were she can wear it long and thus she now wears wigs. Costly wigs.
    I an struggle with her hair type due to my lack of experience and that our hair types are so different. (i'm a 3 a/b, shes a 4 b/c) But i gotta say honestly im tired to trying to show her things to do with my hair when her main objective is too wear wigs for the next year. While im rocking a inch of hair. Somethings i listen to her talk abut her concept of beauty and her views a truly jaded, long hair to her is beauty when i have always preached to her that beauty is the person you are within. – As one frustrated mother to another, sometimes we have to let them fall so that they can learn on their own.

  • Anonymous says:

    In the end it's all about self love and understanding… She is young it's a good time to learn how to care for her hair, her body and her health. It's not going to be easy but with time she will learn.
    After her transition my niece how is in 7th grade knows more now about hair then any adult mbr of the familly. It's a new found passion and we are all happy and proud of her… Until she find something new to focus on.. She did a BC there was no other ways her hair was so damaged but although we where worried she seem to have embrased her beauty she brush her teeth more and is always asking for earings and such… You can't pay her to get cornrow lol …. but she is always happy to do a hair mask and is now wanting a henna treatment… Although her mom feel she is to young for hair coloring dispite the benefits of henna.

    Dear mom:take it one day at a time and smile in a few years when she is all grown up she will thank you for teaching her how to care for her hair

  • Anonymous says:

    My daughter is 13 and this is her 1st year in high school. Her hair had been previously texturized but we grew that out with trims her and there over the course of a year. We used to flat iron religiously, but this school year, she has only had it flat ironed once. She loves to wear wngs too. Her friends are also relaxer free so that helps a lot. I try to do twist for her on the weekends so she can wear twist outs for school. We also try to keep the front half in corn rows. Her main focus is having healthy hair and she realized how the texturizer was breaking her hair off so she decided that wild curly hair was much better than no hair at all.

  • Anonymous says:

    i was natural from age 11 to 15, and then i blamed my natural hair for all my teenage problems (not being popular, that cute boy not noticing me etc). i didn't know how to take care of it and i was in boarding school. it was really big and and i was really skinny, so i was referred to as "that skinny girl with big hair"… I HATED MY HAIR, and my mum wouldn't let me relax it, or cut it. i finally relaxed it on my 16th birthday and it felt really good. now six years later i have a twa and i love it.. i don't regret relaxing my hair that time, i just think i was not psychologically to see the beauty in my natural hair.

  • Tamar-Charmaine says:

    well i went natural in the 8th grade but then some how my mom got me to get a perm but after that perm in august i began to braid my hair i let my "new-growth" reach mid neck and then i cut the permed ends in november, by this time i was in 9th grade and i kept my hair in braids most of the year by the time 10th grade hit i stopped braiding my hair and styling my natural hair

  • Unknown says:

    Well this is an interesting topic considering teenage years are tough. My youngest sister is 13 and started transitioning when she was 12, seveth grade. She did it for a year and recently bc'ed. She loves it however it didn't come easily. She doesn't want to use heavy gels, my mother a 3a doesn't want to maintain it and some ppl just don't get it. But I encourage her everyday to keep up her journey. Even at her age she decided that she wanted her hair to be as it was as a toodler. In this process I have seen her blossom. She is her own person that feels comfortable in her skin. She is being to be more vocal about things and less influenced by others. I a not saying natural hair or the transitioning process is for all tweens or teens. Parents know there children and you know when they are serious. Have a sit down with your child andresearch with then to know what your both getting into. The parents have to be equally involved as the children. I am also a natural have pose a/ question to the CN and natural community, why do we take notice to female tween transitioners but not male? Young men grow hair all the time and we glorify it for the most part. Why not offer the same supposrt for the young women? Just a thought.

    Btw I also have another sibling who is not a natural and I supposrt her all the same at 15 because I encourage healthy hair not natural over relaxed. I think finding ones beauty. And confidence is the most important thing to focus on at such a difficult time in a tweens or teens life:)

  • MsAnkh says:

    My niece had some of the same problems. She didnt like two-strand twist or braids because she said they looked babyish. So I should her some of my funkier styles with my twist-outs and braid-outs like fro-hawk, afro with accessories, up on one side and down on the other) you know the styles we see as weekend hair but try not to wear to work as often. She loved those and with her in school she had that freedom of expression. So I showed her how to set her hair at night with mid to chunky twist or braids and then get up in the morning and style to her liking. She has even shown me a couple of new styles and now 3 of her friends have decided to go natural. You have to find something they will like and then let them build on it.

  • Anonymous says:

    With regard to issue #1, what I've been doing with my daughter (who is almost 10) is trying out different braided styles. Those seem to be popular with girls who have perms and who don't. She has this style in now: but I put cornrows along the sides instead of twists. I'm thinking next time, I may put twists all down the center for a fauxhawk look.

    For issue #2, I think braids could work as well. Everybody rocks those braided styles in Brooklyn. Young, old and in between. I'm not sure where they're located but I think this could work for anyone, unless she absolutely hated braids. I don't recommend getting them done professionally, though. It's my experience that the pro's don't know how NOT to braid to tightly. I have sub-par braiding skills at best and I think I do an OK job. On freshly washed hair with the right comb for parting, anyone can put in a simple but still nice and "mature" style I think.

  • Anonymous says:

    My 11 year old daughter transitioned using braids after her hair was damaged from wearing a relaxer. Even though the braids made the transition easier, once it was time to wear her hair without the extensions, it was pretty difficult. She heard a lot of rude comments by other kids and at first it was discouraging. BUT, now that her hair is getting longer, she and I are both much happier! Her hair is healthy and beautiful and I think that she finally appreciates it! It helped that she had a friend who was going through the same thing and now, they are both rockin' those naturals and looking good! It was tough, but well worth it. I would encourage any parent who's daughter is having trouble with a relaxer to hang on in there and stand your ground during the transition. It's tough, but the result is worth it!!

  • ispeak says:

    DONT DO IT!!

    lol, Seriously.. Middle/Highschool is TUFF! I am in college and I am still trying to get over the hump of not having 12 inch Yaky in my head or a jazzy cut!

    Its hard and you definately have to be willing to take the hits and comments you will get!

    But if the child is a strong girl she will make it out.. but I mean in the mean time give her braids! That would make her feel alot more comfortable…

    Hope it all works out!

  • Shalonda says:

    My daughter is 14 and have been transitioning since April of this year. This is her 1st year in high school so I did not know how long she would stick with it but to my surprise she is hanging in there. i still let her get a blow out once a month but when the straight style has shrunk she has done braid outs and twist and curls. She has also found a love of hair accessories so that has also helped.

    As her mom she has seen me BC and the growth I have had over the year and can't wait to be be fully natural. I also remind her daily that she is not her hair. Although she will not BC she knows from our talks the versatility of natural hair and to love herself.

  • Unknown says:

    I have been natural 3 times in my life, birth-6, 10-16, and now[im 20] and i can honestly say i cannot remember my mom say "you are going natural" at any point i can remember BEGGING her for a just for me perm when i was 6. and then i begged my mom for braids when i was 9 and she told me i couldnt get perms any more if i did and i agreed. even tho i was natural most of high school i dont think i fully REALIZED it because i had a press for all of that. it makes no sense to me now tho lol. until i was about 15 when my mom tried to "stretch" those press-es[sp?]so i wore twist outs. that was so hard for me i liked them but everyone else didnt i got made fun of and boys didnt want to talk to me. so i got a perm and my problems were solve.
    All that being said. i dont think they will notice the natural hair if u dont really make a big fuss about it. just do the braid/twist outs. supervise hair stylings with her. only gie conditioner to her to wash with. or better yet.. u wash it! i think thats wat work for my mom with me..

  • kimmie0810 says:

    Could the girls' transitions be done with braids, twists, or "fancy" cornrows done with extensions? Those styles are age appropriate & seem to be "accepted" by kids in that age group.

    My cousin RUINED her 9yr old's hair by over relaxing it & not caring for it properly. Over the summer, I did lots of deep conditions & treatments to her hair & took her to get it cornrowed in really cute styles. She felt like a diva lol. Before school started, I splurged & had senegalese twists done in her hair. It's neat & looks beautiful on her & we don't have to fuss with her hair while she's growing it back out–WITHOUT A RELAXER!

    I never really thought about it but she's 9yrs old & "transitioning"! Even though she's transitioning back to how her hair SHOULD be at that age until she's old enough to make her own decisions about how she wants to wear her hair. She has input now but she knows chemicals are OUT OF THE QUESTION! As well as the too grown styles her mother allowed her to get before.

    I think it is all about how the hair is styled during & after the transition. There are SOOOOO many options, the mothers & daughters should be able to find something that makes them both happy. I don't think a BC is appropriate for a young girl. I don't think most of them are ready for that.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been natural for almost 9 months my daughter who is 13 has watched me from the "BC" to now. She never was relaxed until she was 8 and spent a summer with my older sister who said her hair was "unruly" and put a box perm in it. The drama continued for years but after major breakage this year I am letting her transition thru braids she has begged to BC but i dont think she is emotionally ready. I have my insecure hair momemts and i am adult.

  • Anonymous says:

    Now, this is a tough situation. I think it totally depends on the strength of the child and the atmosphere of the school she attends. Does she have siblings that would support her so that she wouldn't care what school friends thought? Does she go to a small school where most parents pick up their children right after school so that there is little time for idle (and sometimes troublesome) chatter between the kids? I think these are valid considerations.

    Regardless of that, the good thing is that Willow Smith has her "Whip my Hair" song out. I think that's a great song for encouraging young black girls to rock whatever hairstyle she chooses.

    Good Luck to the Mom!

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