by Bee of
Do you have memories of sitting in between your mother’s legs while she parted your hair, oiled your scalp, and styled you up in some plaits and twists, perhaps with pretty clips and bubbles and elastics? Are those memories fond or fearful? For me, they’re all warm and fuzzy. Having my mom wash and braid me up for school was usually something I looked forward to – her hands were gentle, I loved the smell of the African Pride scalp oils she used (remember the yellow ones filled with petroleum and “herbs”?), and we had fun watching TV or talking while she got me ready for the next day of school.

I know that for others, the memories aren’t so sweet. Hair being
scraped back and torn with rough combing, singes from irons used to
“tame” naps, and harsh comments about how tough, nappy, and bad one’s
hair was. I’ve seen the after-effects of negative treatment pass down
much more visibly than the positive – mothers who were told their hair
was “bad” have practiced the same with their own children, especially
their daughters. Seeing 4 year olds with relaxed hair makes me sad.
Hearing mothers talk about how terrible their child’s hair is in front of the child makes
me cringe.

I have heard Black women admit to choosing fathers of
another race in order to ensure that her daughter didn’t have “nappy-ass hair” like she did. I’ve spoken with White mothers who have children with Black men, but have absolutely no clue what to do with their baby’s hair.

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If you’re a parent struggling with your child’s hair, you aren’t
alone! I’m no hair professional, but here are some tips I’ve acquired to
help create more happy, healthy memories when it comes to little ones
and their hair.

  • Moisturizing is the key: kids’ hair can get
    extremely dry. From wearing wool hats in the winter, to going to
    swimming lessons, to a general rough and tumble lifestyle, so many
    things can zap the moisture right out of your little one’s hair. If they
    also have tight kinks and curls, you’ll want to pay even more attention
    to this. 
    • Adding a bit of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or jojoba oil to
      shampoos and conditioners is always a good move. 
    • Stick to water-based moisturizers to keep hair soft and supple in between
    • Use natural oils like coconut oil, argan oil, and shea butter to nourish and lubricate your child’s hair before styling.
  • Detangling doesn’t have to be torture: the keys to
    detangling are tools + technique. 
    • Use a wide-tooth comb to gently but
      thoroughly detangle hair section by section
    • If you have extra time,
      use your fingers as a comb to remove any tiny knots or tangles.
    • Never
      detangle your little one’s hair when it’s dry! The best time to do so is
      when their hair is soaking wet and full of conditioner – this helps
      your comb to move through the hair much easier, and less painfully too. 
    • If their hair does dry before you’ve been able to detangle, keep a
      spritz bottle of water and leave-in conditioner handy to wet the hair
      again before running through with the comb.
  • Young scalps are important: Are you concerned with
    the rate at which your child’s hair is NOT growing? It all starts at the
    scalp. School-aged children are prone to getting a little bit of
    everything in their hair, and if yours also sweats in their scalp,
    you’ll need to shampoo more frequently. Scalps need to be able to breathe
    in order for hair growth to flourish, so keep that in mind. Also –
    don’t gunk your child’s scalp with petroleum based oils and greases.
    While some use mineral oil-based products to protect their strands from mechanical damage, these products can sit on top of the scalp without providing any
    nourishing properties. Try applying castor oil to your little one’s
    scalp to nourish and promote growth.
  • Styles matter: Most parents I know limit “out” days
    and keep their children’s hair in mainly protective styles. Smart move,
    as this could save you the tears and extra time to detangle at the next
    wash day. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to try your hand at some
    new styles! Buns, braids, twists, cornrows – the options are endless! If
    you aren’t as skilled as you’d like to be, or if your busy schedule
    makes it hard to recreate fresh and fab styles, hit up your friendly neighborhood braider to get a style that may last your child a week or 2
    at a time! Whatever route you take, remember that young hairlines are
    sensitive – don’t cause damage by braiding, pulling, or combing too
    tightly. Also, take care of exposed ends. Try applying shea butter or
    coconut oil to the ends of hair to protect from dryness and splitting.

(don’t the above tips reflect the same things we adults do for our natural hair care? Get the kiddies started off right!)

  • Watch your words: I have colleagues and
    acquaintances in their 50s who remember, clear as day, the way their
    mothers used to disparage and criticize their hair – those memories
    don’t easily fade away. Remove the negative speak when taking care of
    your child’s hair, and replace it with positives. Children first develop
    their self-esteem through what they’re taught and told at home –
    besides, there are sufficient messages in the world to tell your child
    why they aren’t good enough. Do you want to add to that, or help to
    strengthen your child against it? Use your words to instill pride and
    love in your child’s hair, so that they can absorb that pride and love
    for themselves. Instead of teaching them how to “fix” their hair, teach
    them how to take care of it. “Fixing” indicates that something is wrong –
    and as long as your child’s hair is healthy, it’ll be alright!

Below, share your tips for caring for your kiddo’s curls!