You know when you sign your kid up for an activity or it’s a new school year so the teacher sends a “get to know you” form to fill out? And on that form is usually a box for “your child’s fears”? Usually I write ‘loud noises’ and ‘itchy tags’, because he’s uber sensitive to loud noises (won’t ride a school bus, covers his ears when a smoke alarm goes off, gets scared when a motorcycle drives by…) and he loses his sh*t if an item of clothing has a tag he can feel (Nike is THE WORST – absolutely massive tags).
So what’s this have to do with haircuts, you ask? Well the two things he fears most in this world – loud noises (buzzers) and itchies (hairs) combined into one. It is the definition of sensory overload for him. It also doesn’t help that a while back, a hair stylist accidentally nicked his ear, too. You’d think it’d be no big deal, but he remembers it vividly. The kid has PTSD, I swear. And I’m not making light of PTSD – I legit think he has it. Haircuts have progressively gotten worse and worse as he’s gotten older (it wasn’t this bad when he was much younger).
The last time we actually went to a barber, it took my hubby plus TWO other employees to restrain him and they didn’t even make it all the way through the haircut – meanwhile I sat in the car with the other littles and refused to go in with him because it is traumatizing for ME to watch! (Yes, I hesitate to use the word ‘restrain’ because of such negative connotations but this is MY truth so, judgements and trolls, beware!) We’re at that point where we can’t even take him to the barber anymore. It’s too traumatic and embarrassing for all of us.
There’s not a lot that really gets me in the momming world, especially with the oldest. But haircuts with my little big guy make my heart shatter into a million pieces.
This is what they look like these days…(And time-lapse gives us the grace of making it look a little better than what it’s like in real time.)
Before everyone starts suggesting things we can try to help ease his fears and get through haircuts, here are the things we’ve already tried:
- Electronic distractions: iPad in his hand or favorite show on the TV, no difference.
- Desensitization: Backtrack and just use scissors, watch his brother, watch his dad. Slow lead up.
- Treats: We’ve tried treats during the haircut and the promise of treats after the haircut. No dice.
- New toys: Does that count as treats? “Luca, if you let us cut your hair you can pick out a toy on Amazon” (pandemic). Or “Luca, if you let us cut your hair we can go to the toy store after!” (pre-pandemic).
- Ripping off the bandaid: Not mentioning a thing about him getting a haircut until we walk through the door (or sit him in the chair if it’s at our own house).
- Giving plenty of notice: Talking about it a week ahead of time, and letting him ask any questions he wants, or share any emotion he feels.
- Model: Watch the buzzers on Daddy’s head. On Dommy’s head. Feel them on your arm. He does this all just fine…on his head/near his ear is a different story.
- Mama snuggles: “I will hold you and hug you and kiss you and won’t let go of you until it’s all over. You know I love you and you are brave and you are strong.”
I’ve consulted everyone I can think of, too. The hair stylists at the kids’ place where they usually go. My hair stylist. The pediatrician. Even put a poll out on IG stories a while ago.
I’m at that point where I’ve only got one more thing up my sleeve. I’m taking a page out of my special education colleagues’ background with this one. Just made him this social story and gifted it to him today. He LOVED it, and read it to his brother right away. And we’ll keep it in our playroom library till the next haircut. It’s my last hope!
If this doesn’t work, I am really not sure where to go from here. Am I scarring him for life? Maybe just not ever take him to get a haircut and let him grow his hair out until forever? Or at least for a while until we attempt it again? Honestly, help!!!! Is there anything – ANYTHING – I haven’t tried that I could try? Special tricks that I don’t know about?
This mama needs your help, or at the very least, your sympathy!