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First Haircut Survival

Time to visit the barber? Know that your toddler may not understand why a stranger's coming at him with scissors, or that a little trim won't hurt. To avoid shear anxiety:

Open Mommy's Salon. Give imaginary haircuts to his stuffed animals or dolls, then sit him in front of a mirror and cut a small piece of his hair to show him that it doesn't hurt.

Take him to a barber or salon as a spectator. Seeing you, Dad, or an older sib smiling in a smock will prove that there's nothing to worry about when it's his turn.

Try a kid-friendly stylist. Ask friends to give you some recommendations, or look for special salons that feature child-size seats, kids' movies, and other fun distractions.

Follow his lead. Though you may want to stand near him or hold him while he's in the chair, be flexible if it seems like he'll do better with you out of sight. "I have a client who'd always cry until his mom walked away," says Esperanza Hernandez, a hairstylist at Cool Cuts For Kids, in Bakersfield, CA.

Make haircuts a fun ritual. Explain that afterward, you'll go out for ice cream or to play in the park. That way, he'll look forward to trips to the barber instead of being scared of them.