You notice that your child has begun itching his or her head constantly. When you take a closer look, you think you may see nits, eggs, or other signs of lice. A visit to an experienced clinician confirms your suspicion: your child has head lice.
As a parent, you understand that lice is a common problem that should have little effect on your child’s health or even his or her appearance. However, if your child has never dealt with this issue before, he or she may feel embarrassed or ashamed about a lice infestation.
Many children experience embarrassment related to head lice due to misconceptions spread by teachers, other adults, and their peers. Some children may also experience teasing or bullying, especially if a friend or friend’s parent thinks that a certain child gave head lice to other children.
Use the guidelines below to help your child deal with any embarrassment he or she may experience due to an infestation.
To combat the stigma surrounding head lice, you have to know what you’re actually up against. Telling your child or another parent well-meaning but false information can contribute to feelings of disgust or fear in reaction to head lice infestations.
For example, many parents have heard the myth that lice prefer dirty hair. This misconception leads to many children feeling dirty, lower class, or less attractive because they assume they must exhibit these negative traits or they wouldn’t have lice.
Learn about head lice transmission and treatment so you are better equipped to help your child deal with the negative perceptions that he or she might be exposed to due to misinformation. You can start educating yourself right here on our blog.
Share Information With Your Child
To combat feelings of embarrassment, empower your child with information. Explain that lice infestations are common and aren’t a big deal in the long run. If you or another adult family member has had lice, talk about your experience. Emphasize the fact that, even if you felt embarrassed at the time, head lice did not affect your overall life.
Be sensitive to your child’s comprehension level to avoid confusion that could lead to further embarrassment. For example, a young child may just need to know that he or she has little pests in his or her hair and that treatment methods force those pests to move out of the hair. An older child may feel safer and more confident understanding how lice spread and mature as well as what to expect during treatment.
Empathize With Your Child’s Emotions
It’s important to understand that while lice are not dangerous or an indicator of personal cleanliness and character, your child may still feel scared or ashamed. Your child’s emotions may be particularly strong if he or she has been teased about the infestation or treatment.
To help your child overcome these negative feelings, start by imagining the experience from your child’s perspective. When you empathize with the isolation, embarrassment, or anxiety your child may feel, you can better understand what comfort he or she needs from you.
For example, if your daughter has an irrational fear about what the lice or treatment might do to her hair, reassure her that her hair will stay beautiful. You may even want to apply a small amount of lice lotion or shampoo to your hair to demonstrate that the treatment doesn’t affect hair health or appearance.
Answer Questions as They Arise
There’s a lot of information to know about head lice behavior and treatment. Your child may forget what you have already said or may have new questions later on. As questions come up, give calm and clear answers to reassure your child.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, consider researching with your child or bringing up the question with an expert. These actions help your child feel supported and protected and fully informed.
Work With Teachers and Fellow Parents
Much of the embarrassment children may experience related to head lice results from the stigma surrounding these pests. You can learn more about diminishing this stigma through constructive conversation in our blog “Head Lice Stigma: Let’s Talk About Head Lice.”
If your child’s teachers or friends’ parents are wary due to the infestation, talk to them about the situation directly. Spreading correct information can reassure these adults and decrease any negative impact on the children involved.
Use these strategies to minimize the effect that a lice infestation can have on your child’s emotional well-being and seek professional treatment to eliminate the infestation quickly. Soon, your child will be back to his or her happiest and healthiest self.
Suspect your child has head lice, but aren’t sure? At Heartland Healthy Heads, we offer comprehensive screenings, important patient education, and effective treatment options to identify and address head lice infestations. Schedule a head lice screening today.