Haircuts can be incredibly stressful events for children, especially those with sensory processing difficulties. Between new sights, sounds, textures and expectations to sit still, it can be overwhelming.

The good news is there are concrete strategies to help prepare your child and make haircuts easier and more successful over time.

Why Haircuts Are Challenging

What makes haircuts uniquely tricky for some kids? New and intense sensory elements like:

  • Unfamiliar setting
  • Meeting new people
  • Touch from others
  • Tight cape
  • Loose hairs tickling skin
  • Loud sounds from clippers
  • Strong hair product smells
  • Pressure to not squirm

Negative experiences can make subsequent cuts more frightening too.

Sensory-Supportive Game Plan

With some planning, you can attempt to dial down distress and make haircuts easier by turning them into confidence-building experiences.

Before the Haircut

  • Watch videos previewing the process
  • Visit the barbershop to acquaint your child ahead of time
  • Make an appointment to minimize waiting
  • Do heavy work/calming activities beforehand
  • Alert stylists to sensitivities

During the Haircut

  • Allow sensory toys or fidgets for “quiet hands”
  • Have your child wear noise-blocking headphones
  • Request unscented hair products

After the Haircut

  • Offer praise for effort and bravery
  • Celebrate with a special treat

Seeking Solutions to Make Haircuts Easier

If sensory troubles persist despite preparation help, pursue an occupational therapy evaluation assessing daily challenges. Customized treatment can build skills for better-regulating input from the environment.

Let’s make haircuts and other new experiences empowering rather than overwhelming!

Written by Dr. Jaslyn Seeley
Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Geriatrics

Adapted from: Seeley, Jaslyn Robb, “Parent & Caregiver Education And Support: A Product To Support Families Of Children With Sensory Processing Difficulties” (2022). Occupational Therapy Capstones. 535.

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