In the heading «Ask an expert a question» our reader Nancy asks:
«My daughter is 5 years old. She hates washing her hair. It has always been so. All through the screams! What to do, please tell me.»
According to statistics, 25-30% of children do not like to wash their hair. And most of all they are uncomfortable when water gets on their face. Only 5% of these children went through unsuccessful swimming training. That is, the reason for their fear of water is clear. The rest just can’t stand washing their hair, especially if water flows down their face.
As a psychologist, I will say: such fear refers to the normal healthy instincts of human survival.
Dislike of shampooing is a sign of a normally developing psyche and working survival instincts.
If a child is afraid of water, mothers always face a dilemma: to force, persuade or leave it as it is — to walk with a dirty head. Let’s analyze all the options.
Option 1: force. It can be practiced by young mothers who believe that if a child goes through an unpleasant procedure several times, then he will get used to it and will be completely normal, without shouting and protests. But the experience of parents and statistics say: he won’t get used to it. And he will still be afraid to wash his hair, but to this will also be added a sense of resentment for being betrayed. This can greatly spoil the child-parent relationship. Therefore, I do not recommend forcing a child to wash his hair without his desire.
A mother who wants to force a child to wash her hair is usually driven by a strong sense of guilt. «If my child has a dirty head, everyone will think that I am a bad mother.» But with a high degree of probability, such a mother will feel guilty in any case. If you have a strong sense of guilt, read books on psychology, talk to other moms, contact a psychologist.
Option 2: persuade. It may work if you offer your child an alternative. As we already know, the most unpleasant thing for a child is the feeling of water flowing over his face. This feeling should be avoided as much as possible. Ask the child to tilt his head back while bathing so that the water flows back. Or use swimming goggles. In addition, there are special visors on the head that protect children’s eyes from water.
Option 3: leave it as it is. Let the child walk for weeks with an unwashed head. In children, the sweat glands are not as active, and the hair does not need to be washed as often as it is necessary for adults. The child’s head can stay clean for months.
Whichever option you choose, it is important to understand that:
such a reaction to washing your hair is normal at 5 years old, and even at 7;
with growing up, this problem passes, especially when the child begins to wash his hair himself;
the fear of water by itself does not mean that something is wrong with your child.
The fear of water and contact with it is hydrophobia or aquaphobia. Very often this fear is observed in those who do not know how to swim -this is how the instinct of self-preservation works.
If a child hates washing his hair, you can try to change the process itself — to make a game out of it. Perhaps, in early childhood, parents made a mistake, for example, forced to wash forcibly. Therefore, the child has formed negative feelings.
There should be a children’s cosmetics line in everyday use, because delicate children’s skin dries faster, it is easier to damage it, which also leaves a negative imprint on water procedures.
It is extremely rare that such a syndrome as aquagenic itching can manifest itself. This is a skin condition characterized by the development of severe, tingling epidermal itching without visible skin damage caused by contact with water. Different people have itching in different ways. Some have individual seizures that can last from 10 minutes to two hours. Others have symptoms almost constantly due to the level of humidity and/or sweating.
Most often, itching occurs on the legs, arms, chest, back and abdomen, although it can occur in other places. But it will not manifest itself only from washing your hair.
As a result, proper communication with the baby, the absence of coercion, the format of the game in the process, the correct selection of hygiene products and a preventive examination by a doctor to assess the scalp will help solve the issue of bathing the child.
Up to what age is it normal for a child to be afraid of water?
It is normal to be afraid of open water up to 3.5-4 years. The vagaries of bathing in the bath are usually typical for children under 3 months (this is a physiological process) and after 14 months, when the child begins to show character, but here it’s more that the child begins to dictate his conditions.
In the first year of life, along with massage, it is worth giving the child to infant swimming. Then there will be no problems with water.
Fear occurs due to improper conditions of contact with water in the early period of development and the lack of proper, soft adaptation.
How to cope with the fear of water?
Good mood. It is best to choose the moment for bathing when the child is in a good mood, between meals. You can distract the child’s attention with a bright toy by putting it in your hand. The fear will not go away immediately, and mom should be calm and patient, perform her actions consistently and periodically.
Bathing with Mom. When a one-year-old child is in close contact with one of the parents, he feels comfortable and safe. He calms down and swims calmly.
Games in the bathroom. You can give a basin and put toys in it. It is necessary to show how toys have fun playing with water. Mom can show the baby how it’s raining. When the baby gets used to such games, they can be moved to a large bathroom.
Do not put pressure on the child. If necessary, take a break. Young children at the age of one year quickly forget both good and bad events. Therefore, to get rid of the fear of bathing, you can take a break between water treatments for several days. The child will forget unpleasant memories and will be happy to take a bath.
Change the situation. The baby compares the bathroom with unpleasant sensations that will follow after bathing. To calm the baby, you can change the situation, move the bath, for example, to the kitchen. In the new environment, the baby will behave calmly.