Transracial Adoption

On November 23, 2009, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke
When I started Honeysmoke, I had no idea I would find — and meet — so many parents who are raising children from other parts of the world. What is heartening about the parents I have met is they are embracing everything about their children — especially their hair. I shared my observation with the Curl Whisperer, and she said she was glad parents were doing this. In the past — and I’ve had several hairdressers tell me this — many mothers threw up their hands until they couldn’t take it anymore, and mother and child would show up in a salon with a fully knotted mess. I think this post shows the complexity of the issue without making it a scary matter. Enjoy.

© Joyful Mom
We have been home with the girls exactly two years today. I vividly remember arriving at our airport late on a chilly night, exhausted, hungry, underdressed, and overwhelmed. And then we couldn’t find the car. I remember the feel of Little B’s recently shaved head against my palm as we wandered around the dark parking lot in the cold November evening. Just two years ago she was tiny enough for me to wear in an Ergo, carried in front. Now the girls are big kindergartners and we’ve come a long, long way.

Many HGH readers are adoptive moms on their own adoption journey, waiting for their children. Often, moms ask what they should bring for hair care when they travel to be united with their children. The great news, and short answer, is not much. While hair care is a footnote in the huge production of adoption travel, it’s only natural to think about it. It’s one of those few details within our control, right along with how many pull-ups to bring and what size shoes to pack.

We’ve talked about infant hair care before and the same goes for travel. A gentle cleanser, a soft brush, and a little oil is all that’s needed. For a very young infant with little hair, the brush and oil can probably wait until after homecoming. Even very young infants can have ringworm, so a topical medication would be a good thing to pack.

A little more might be required for older kids, or it might not. Many a mom, including me, has arrived to find her child’s head has been recently shaved. A recently shaved head will also be fine with gentle cleanser, a soft brush and a little oil. Kid’s heads are generally shaved to help control the fungus and lice that can flourish when a lot of children live together. It’s a good idea to bring an anti-fungal cream like Lotrimin. Ringworm on the scalp can be very tough to get rid of and all ringworm is contagious, so it’s important to talk to the doctor about it at that first appointment. Some families bring lice medication too. I’ve only run across a few families who needed it, but it’s not a bad idea to bring it.

Taking in the first view of the US

Most shaved heads are a surprise, so it’s wise to pack as though the child does have hair. Fortunately, it can be kept very simple. A conditioner that can be used to wash and/or as a leave-in, and a wide-toothed comb are the basics. A natural bristle brush can help remove little fuzzies, and if you have a girl, a few headbands or a barrette can make her feel very special. The tiny metal barrettes that close with a bend in the middle can work for almost any length hair. Some people chose to bring a shampoo as well, but unless you know you will have access to a tub or shower and a good water supply, I’d skip the shampoo. Bathing your toddler or preschooler when you have just met can be a challenge, so a full on shampooing and conditioning might be a bit much. I think I used a little baby wash on a wash cloth and some warm water to cleanse, but I could have used conditioner instead. Plain water will do the job for the short term too. A conditioner wash would probably be fine for a school age child. After cleansing, a bit more conditioner can be added for a leave-in.

I always think it’s a good idea to wait until getting settled in at home before buying and trying out lots of products. It’s really hard to know what a child’s hair texture is from a photo and once you are home, you can take your time to learn about your child’s hair texture and figure out the hair’s needs as it changes with a new diet and a new climate.


Infant Hair Care Packing List

a gentle cleanser (Cetaphil is mild, and can be wiped off without rinsing)
Lotrimin or other topical antifungal cream
Optional
baby brush
small amount of oil (jojoba, olive, or coconut)


Older Child Hair Care Packing List
conditioner (for use in cleansing and/or as a leave-in)
wide-toothed comb
Lotrimin or other topical antifungal cream
lice treatment
Optional
small amount of oil (jojoba, olive, or coconutfor use if the head has been shaved)
a gentle cleanser (Cetaphil is mild, and can be wiped off without rinsing)
natural bristle brush
hair accessories for girls

Those are the basics I recommend for a short trip of a week or two. If your trip is several weeks long and you are adopting an older child who will be in your care most of that time, you might add a shampoo, a moisturizing styling aid and a rat tail comb. Some parents have enough time to take older daughters to a braiding salon while in the child’s birth country. If that isn’t possible, a few simple puffs can be accomplished with a rat tail comb, a natural bristle brush and ponytail holders.

Wishing you and your little one a safe and happy journey!

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  • etc at Fierce and Nerdy

    Wow, I’m glad someone covered this. She’ll be getting a lot of hits from the many google searches that are done about this everyday I’m sure.

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