By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
October 8, 2013
Your 12-year-old wants to dye her hair. What tone do you take?
From our panel of staff contributors
Of all the things a kid could want to do to either make you crazy or show her individuality, this has got to be the most benign. But she should use her own money.
I don't see the harm. At 12, the kid probably knows which of her peer group members will be on the mocking/disapproving side and which will be on the supportive side. Which side would you like to be on?
There are a lot of temporary hair dyes out there, ones with which she can streak her hair or color wide swaths of it. I say it's fine as long as she can wash it out, especially before she returns to school. Or maybe you two can agree on a highlight or streak. Happy compromises shouldn't be too difficult.
There's likely no harm, but there may be repercussions.
Which is the message you want to lovingly drive home to your budding adolescent, says psychologist Carl Pickhardt, author of "Surviving Your Child's Adolescence: How to Understand, and Even Enjoy, the Rocky Road to Independence" (Jossey-Bass). He suggests launching a dialogue with the following:
"Your hair color doesn't make a bit of difference to us. You'll still be the same person you always were. But that doesn't necessarily hold true for other people. You live in a world with other people, and you are setting yourself apart from what's socially normal and attracting special attention to yourself and provoking assumptions that can affect how you are treated."
This isn't meant to talk your child out of expressing herself, but it will remind her that actions prompt reactions, and she may want to prepare herself for some of the less positive ones.
"You need to talk with your kid about what social differences this change could possibly make," Pickhardt says. "(Purple) hair may allow you to affiliate and gain acceptance with a certain crowd. Somebody else might view you with suspicion and mistrust. A teacher might say, 'Looks like I've got a troublemaker in the class.'"
While you're talking, try to suss out what lies beneath her desire for purple hair.
"The first response to your child wanting to change something should always be to find out what's going on," Pickhardt says. "She could be simply experimenting — 'I'm not a child anymore and I want to display that.' It could be an independence issue — 'This is my body and I can do with it what I want.' If her friends are doing it, it could be a statement of solidarity. If her friends aren't doing it, it could be a desire to stand out."
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