You guys, my kid has blue hair.
For awhile now, she’s been asking for blue Manic Panic hair color, and after a recent babysitting job, she excitedly bought a jar of Rockabilly Blue. I thought she was planning a streak or two, but a full tub of hair dye and one incredibly blue bathroom later, her gorgeous blonde hair is no more. And, I fully support it. Mostly.
I don’t really know why she randomly decided blue hair was her thing, but I do know why I allowed it without hesitation.
The teen years are rough — discovering your identity and building self-esteem are no easy task for teens or their parents. I wanted to give her the room to figure out who she is and help build her confidence.
I remember being a teen. After all, I’m not that old. It’s so hard to find your place. At some point, you want to be something more than “one of those Smith kids.” I wanted to be so different. I dyed my hair when I could get away with it. I pierced what my parents would allow. I dressed in things that made my mother cringe.
You want to be separate from your parents in a way you can’t describe, and that often comes out in appearance. Because if someone can see right away that your blue hair doesn’t match your parents, you’re clearly your own person.
I think it’s my job as a parent to help my kids figure out who they are, while they’re still safely under our roof. They should leave home with confidence, knowing exactly who they are, as they find their place in the world of grown-ups.
Right now, my teen is hiding behind her blue hair, struggling to come to grips with who she is and who she wants to be. I see her trying to define her style and find the right selfie angle to present the look she wants to the world, and I remember that effort to find myself — both as a teen and again as an adult, since I hadn’t quite figured it out just yet.
I hope giving her this freedom to dye her hair blue, wear a series of stars in her ear, or wear combat boots all summer will help her find herself a little sooner.
It’s also a form of rebellion — I remember the strong teen desire to buck the system and do anything my parents wouldn’t like. If I can contain her feelings to outlandish piercings and wild hair colors, I think we will come out okay.
She’s not missing curfew. She’s not skipping school. She’s not a smoker. She just has blue hair. I really don’t see the harm. In fact, I think it could actually protect her.
Depression, self-harm, and alcohol abuse are very real dangers for teens. It’s my hope that having a safe outlet for self-expression can keep my kids from turning to more harmful forms of control. Instead of cutting, dye your hair. Instead of drinking with your friends, get your eyebrows pierced together.
It’s not a miracle cure for mental illness, obviously, but I think it can help with everyday teen angst.
That’s why negative comments and looking down on teens who dress a little differently or wear outlandish hairstyles can actually be harmful. They’re finally expressing who they truly are inside — and you just said you don’t like it.
The next time you find yourself about to comment on a teen’s appearance, please remember what those awkward years were like for you. We should be encouraging kids to find safe, healthy ways to work through this stage. Choose your words carefully, to build kids up instead of tearing them down.