With Cancer-Caused Hair Loss, It’s All About the Support

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THE PROPER PARENTAL SUPPORT FOR A CHILD WHO HAS LOST HIS OR HER HAIR FROM CANCER TREATMENT IS VITAL.

Kids from an early age, some as young as two or even younger, can be found admiring their hair in the mirror. We’re a hair-focused society much the way tall is perceived as good, versus short being perceived as bad. The diagnosis of cancer for a child is not easily processed, especially by those kids who are coming-of-age, going to parties, discovering the opposite sex and painfully aware of how crucial a good hair day is as opposed to a bad hair day when it comes to being accepted and, unfortunately, dare I say it — popular.

I don’t want to assume that everyone who is reading this is a parent. You might instead be a concerned relative, neighbor, teacher, or simply friend. Wanting to do the right thing, or at least something that holds great value, is admirable, and the following are just a few suggestions you may want to consider:

Support a child suffering from Cancer-related hair loss

1. If you’re a parent, and knowing that hair loss is likely, prepare your child upfront. Nothing can be scarier or be a reminder that you’re sick than losing your hair. Allow children the choice to be proactive and shave their heads beforehand. This way the loss, though powerful, is done from a place of taking action and dominion of the treatment instead of the other way around.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk about the pink elephant in the room, or in this case the kid with the bald head. Kids are going to be uncomfortable being seen this way, especially at first. Know that you can cut the tension by talking about it; even asking them how they’re feeling about it is going to be better for everyone. If they don’t want to discuss it, they’ll more than likely tell you. At least it’s out of the way, so a more genuine connection can be made without distractions. Ignoring it will only serve to keep what’s potentially uncomfortable still circling and waiting to land.

3. Kids generally love hats of all kinds. Girls, depending on their age, may like the Fancy Nancy-style hats or colorful bandanas. Boys may prefer hats of their favorite sport’s team. Both may have a favorite hat that could be a great source of comfort as they go through treatment. You may even find custom-designing a hat to be a great gift and spirit tonic. Kids may enjoy collecting hats so there are plenty to choose from. The key here is knowing ahead of time if th is is something they might want, and that requires communicating with them directly or through a friend or family member. The last thing you want to do is cause a kid who doesn’t want to wear a hat or cover-up to think you’re uncomfortable with his new look.

4. Give kids options along the way, and let them know it’s OK to change their minds at any time. A child may be initially resistant to do much of anything, especially being seen by others. Don’t assume that will always be her choice. Keep checking in. She may ask you for a special hat or may tell you it’s suddenly cool to be bald and she’s fine about having friends come by or going to visit. We tend to think that once a kid makes a decision, that’s it, when in fact it’s important to keep checking in periodically. Stubbornness or being set in our ways is generally achieved in adulthood and is not a by-product of youth.

5. Parents, friends, classmates, teammates — any and all can choose to shave their heads in solidarity. There are even organizations where individuals raise money for cancer by shaving their own heads. Any of these options can really lighten the mood of a child who is already dealing with enough physical challenges. Knowing that you have a tremendous amount of support goes a long way in the healing process.