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Shear Anxiety

When your toddler's locks start to look a little scraggly, it's time for a professional haircut. But that first trip to the barber or stylist can be traumatic  -- your child's been told that scissors are sharp, so she may be scared of them. And some young kids don't understand that hair won't hurt when it's cut, says Claire Lerner, a child-development specialist at Zero to Three, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that promotes the healthy development of infants and toddlers. Ways to tame the worries:

  • Ask friends to recommend kid-friendly stylists, or choose a salon that caters to children. That way the employees and clients won't be disturbed by your child's high spirits or crying.

  • Try to schedule the appointment when it's not naptime or when she's not likely to be hungry or fussy.

  • Explain that a haircut won't hurt. Use the gentler-sounding "trim" or "snip" instead of "cut."

  • Sacrifice a bit of your hair. Alyson O'Mahoney, of Bedford Corners, NY, asked the stylist to clip a small lock of her own tresses right before her 12-month-old daughter, Emily, got her first haircut. "Once she saw a little of my hair being taken, she seemed interested in having some of her own trimmed," says O'Mahoney. You can also try this at home before going to the salon.

  • Let your little one sit on your lap while the barber works. The sense of security may help calm her down.

  • Bring along a stuffed animal or doll and a comb, and let your toddler "play hairdresser" on it while she's in the chair. "Kids can work out their fears through pretending," says Lerner. Or distract her by reading a book or telling a story.

  • Don't hesitate to cut the haircut short if she cries, screams, or repeatedly tries to bolt from your lap  -- even if it means leaving with uneven locks. Try again in a couple of months; by then she'll probably have outgrown her fear.