What you need to know about alopecia areata during childhood
People of all ages, races and both sexes can develop alopecia areata, but it often first appears during childhood. Children who have alopecia areata go through different stages of awareness and acceptance of their disease as they grow and change.
Children five years old and younger appear to experience little emotional impact as a result of their condition. However, as they get older, it may become more difficult for them to accept their alopecia areata and issues with self confidence may begin to affect their experiences at school and with friends.
“People who meet my child for the first time wonder if she has cancer.” Sound familiar?
Even though alopecia areata is very common, lots of people still don’t understand exactly what it is
Learn what other parents have done to cope with their children’s alopecia areata, through NAAF’s supportive online community
Understand more about the emotional challenges of alopecia areata in kids ages six and older, and how parents and teachers can help them with self esteem
Know what signs to look for in your child and when it’s time to seek medical advice for depression or anxiety
Alopecia areata in children: ages five and younger
Preschool age children are so busy exploring the world, learning new skills, and becoming more independent, that they don’t pay much attention to their own physical appearance, or the differences they may have from others their age.
For this reason, children under five years old who have alopecia areata don’t usually experience as much of an emotional impact from their condition. They may see their own hair loss as something interesting, but not much more. And their friends at this age aren’t likely to notice, either.
Alopecia areata in children: ages six through 12
By the time a child is six years old, they’ve begun to interact with more people of all ages and have gained enough experience in the world to start noticing the differences between themselves and others. Between the ages of six and 12, children become much more aware of how others think and feel and they may begin to focus on how others see them, or how their condition may make them seem different from their friends.
All of this can make it difficult for older children to accept their alopecia areata. Self-confidence issues may begin to affect their experiences at school and with friends. Even children who have had alopecia areata since they were little may face new feelings and frustrations about their condition and have the desire to “fit in” with other children who don’t have alopecia areata.
As a parent, you can help your child educate classmates and teachers and address these feelings with the support of a group or even a professional counselor, so that they can continue to feel confident about themselves, participate in the activities they enjoy and succeed in school.
What you can do
You can join a support group of parents who also have children with the condition and get involved at your child’s school to help teach their friends, teachers and classmates about their condition.
“I just wanted to say thank you so much! I received the DVDs and school pack info today; it is amazing. This is truly the best resource I have ever found. I can’t wait to share it with my daughter’s school.”
NAAF Community Member
Parenting a child with alopecia areata
Parents of a child with alopecia areata say that it can feel just as traumatic for them as it does for their child. Thankfully, there are many positive and productive things that you can do to cope with your child’s alopecia areata. You can join a support group of parents who also have children with the condition, get involved at your child’s school to help teach their friends, teachers and classmates about their condition, and attend conferences where people who have alopecia areata and their families go to connect with one another and to learn more about the disease — including the latest research news and treatments.
Providing a supportive experience at school
Even though alopecia areata is common, many people still don’t know what it is, or the emotional impact it can have on people who live with the disease. That’s why it’s important to educate and inform people at your child’s school about alopecia areata. Doing so can help your child have a more positive and productive experience in the classroom.
Youth Mentor Program
NAAF’s Youth Mentor Program connects children living with alopecia areata and their parents to dedicated young adult mentors to formulate lasting bonds while providing support and guidance on dealing with the day-to-day challenges stemming from alopecia areata.