* from the
NATIONAL ALOPECIA AREATA FOUNDATION
What is alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata a common condition which results in the hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere.
It usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth patches and can progress total body hair loss.
It occurs in males and females of all ages, but young persons are affected most often.
Do children react differently than adults to alopecia areata?
A twelve year old boy and a forty year old woman may share the fact that both have lost their hair, but
each brings to the encounter different ways of thinking about his or her life, and must adjust to different
emotional experiences and social environments.
Does the age of the child with alopecia areata affect how they react?
Yes, the impact of hair loss is more or less significant to children depending on their age.
How do children before the age of five react?
Very little. Alopecia areata may have little impact, if any on children before the age of five.
The preschool child is so busy exploring his world, acquiring skills, and gaining independence,
that his appearance is virtually immaterial to himself and his peers. His hair loss may be an
interesting anomaly, and nothing more. And most likely his peers will not take much notice
of his appearance.
How do children 6-12 react?
Between the ages of 6 and 12, children have gained experience and interacted with enough people
to grasp the idea that views of the world differ, and that it is important to pay attention to what others
think and feel. While this ability to see things as others to helps children become more empathic and
considerate, it also tends to make children more self conscious. Children at this stage of development
are much more concerned about how others view them, how they may differ from others, and whether
others might be making fun of them. Since children at this age have become so aware of individual
differences, they unfortunately are more likely to poke fun at those who don't fit their definition of
"normal." Even if a child who has alopecia areata since infancy, he now faces new problems of adjustment.
Peers are becoming a more significant part of his life and the desire to "fit in" is becoming stronger.
Even a child with a very heavy self- concept may feel threatened. However if a child feels good about
herself and has at least one skill in which she excels, the odds are increased that she will deal successfully
with these difficulties.
Do teenagers have a hard time dealing with alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata can be especially hard on teenagers. By the tome a child enters adolescence, self- conscious
reaches a peak. The teenager has a acquired new cognitive skills which enable her to think much more introspectively.
This strong tendency to analyze herself is projected onto others, to the point that she feels "on stage," and believes
that even the slightest physical difference or flaw is noticed by others. The adolescent defiantly wants t blend in with
the group, and avoids public criticism and ridicule at all costs. For girls in particular, a stylish, natural-looking hairpiece
can be very important. For both girls and boys, being involved in a variety of activities helps them focus less on their
appearance and more on things over which they have some control, such as academic, musical, or athletic skills.
How do I, as a parent, deal with a child with alopecia areata?
Parenting a child with alopecia areata can be difficult.
Parents with children with alopecia areata need to keep two things in mind.
1) Children can be much more resilient than we imagine. They are generally optimistic, and don't
have the expectation for rejection or ridicule that adults may have because they haven't experienced
or observed it as much as adults have.
2) Children take their cues from the adults in their world, and particularly from you, as a parent.
If a child sees that hair loss is a source of anxiety or sadness for you, he will internalize those feelings.
This does not mean you should ignore or repress your own feelings of loss, sorrow, or anger when you
are trying to cope. In addition, parents should know that feelings of guilt about some how being responsible
for your child's hair loss are natural and to be expected.
Can children change how they are dealing with alopecia areata?
Parents must remember that the ten year old who seems totally accepting of his condition can turn
into a thirteen old who is unable to cope with alopecia areata or wearing a hairpiece.
What is the most important thing to keep in mind as a parent?
Sensitivity and listening to how your child's thinking is affecting his emotional reactions will do a great deal
for the parent - child relationship., as well as to help be an effective parent of a growing child with different
needs, views, worries, and hopes.
Is it important to give information on alopecia areata to my child's school?
Yes. it is important to educate the administration, teachers and fellow students of your child
about alopecia areata.
What other materials and resources are available to me as a parent?
The National Alopecia Areata Foundation has letters and articles about parents and children; brochures;
a bi monthly newsletter; pen pal lists; and support groups throughout the world.
The foundation is currently developing a slide presentation for use at children's schools.