Because she is still so open with me, I can address certain issues before they get a chance to fester.
There is no easy way to address this topic because there are still many of adults struggling to accept their own hair. Maybe we secretly wish we could change our texture or that our hair was longer. The fact is, self acceptance is always a work in progress., and there will always be something about ourselves that we wish we could change. However, as parents, we must take care to ensure that we do not pass down those insecurities to our children. The one thing I am sure of is a child's ability to sense things that perhaps we might not have even admitted to ourselves yet. In helping our kids to love themselves and their hair, we can also achieve an enhanced sense of self-acceptance.
What we realize as mothers
After my daughter was born, I became more philosophical. I had this feeling of accomplishment--she was my gift to the world and if I never did anything else or achieved anything more, she was enough. One day I realized that I needed to be myself in order for my daughter to learn to love herself. I knew I could not help her love her hair if she saw me constantly straightening my own. The decision to be an example came in handy in helping her accept herself, starting with her hair.
Here in Canada, most of my daughter's classmates are white. The minute she started school, it affected the way she viewed herself. Thankfully, she is still at a stage in which she tells me everything, including all of her current crushes which is something I did not think I had to worry about with a six-year-old, by the way. Because she is still so open with me, I can address certain issues before they get a chance to fester. I also try to make a point of listening to her even when I am tired or busy or just in need of a few minutes of silence, because I never want her to feel as though she can’t come to me with anything that is on her mind.
The conversation starts at a young age
You would not believe how often these little kids discuss things like hair. Oftentimes, my daughter comes home and out of nowhere says something like, “Mom, you know I’m not the only one with this type of hair in class, right?” Or sometimes, she says, “Mom, I told my friend’s about Kezia and they asked if she has the same hair as me and I said, 'of course not!'” Kezia is a one-year-old girl with Jamaican parents that my daughter is absolutely obsessed with. Six-year-old kids are having conversations in school and hair type is a central focus for them--go figure!
Addressing their desire for straight hair
A few weeks ago, she said, “Mom, I want my hair to be straight” and I said to her that her hair is like magic. I told her that her hair could be straight, or it could be curly. I reminded her of all the styles we could do with her hair and how some of her straight-haired friends could not do the same styles.
I remember saying, “You know, we could straighten your hair and it would like theirs, but there is no anyway for their hair to look like yours. Your hair is special.” She perked up immediately and said “Yeah, you're right!”
I know the issue will come up again. It probably will never really go away because just like we were--and still are--bombarded with the Eurocentric ideal of beauty, our kids are too. I anticipate it will be much worse for her because I grew up in Jamaica where most of the kids looked like me, and while we did have our 'good hair' issues, my type 4 natural hair was considered the norm and not the exception.
Here, my daughter is the exception and she knows it.
The key is for me to help her feel exceptional. I do not have all the answers, but I know there are simple things that can be done to help your own kids: encourage them to build their self-love by appreciating what is in the mirror. Repeat these things in the morning or even before bed at night. However the conversation gets started, we cannot let our little girls down--we should help them feel beautiful. Although protective styling is important, creating styles that are fun and playful and make them feel especially positive about their hair is equally important.
Try these affirmations
Below are some simple, short and sweet affirmations that can be easily remembered by young kids. Encourage them to sing these affirmations, write them down in a journal, and live them. They may be short, but the message and power of these words runs deep, so women of all ages can benefit from speaking these.
I love myself.
I love my hair.
I am unique and my hair is too.
Everyone is beautiful in their own way.
Healthy hair is good hair and my hair is healthy.
God made me and that makes me perfect because God doesn’t make mistakes.
How do you encourage your little one to love their naturally curly and coily hair?
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