Alopecia and the New School Year

Happy new year! A new school year is just around the corner. Many families will be prepping for the usual concerns – being sure to have the right books, enough pens, and shoes sturdy enough to (hopefully) make it through the whole year.

For families living with alopecia, the new school year can have some extra considerations. Whether you’ve had alopecia for years, or have experienced hair loss over the holidays; whether you’re heading into a new year at the same school or have made a big transition, we hope this article can be a helpful guide. The new school year doesn’t have to be stressful, and there is a lot you can do to set up for a good term.

Questions to Consider:

Alopecia affects everyone differently. Every person and every family can make their own choices about how to manage it. Before you head back to school, it can be helpful to think about or discuss how you’d like to handle things this year. You can always change your mind, but it can be important to make sure the family is all on the same page and everyone feels supported.

– Do you want to let people know about your alopecia, or would you prefer to keep it private?
– What is the school dress code around hats and head coverings? Do you need to get special permission, or find a hat/headscarf in school colours?
– Do you want to wear wigs this year? Does the school have rules about what hair styles are allowed that you need to know about?
– How would you like to let people know about alopecia? You could host a big assembly or Crazy Hair Day, tell your class, send a letter home, hang up posters, or ask for alopecia awareness to be added to class activities.
– If you’d prefer to keep your alopecia private, can you let your teacher or principle or school counsellor know, so you have someone you can speak with if you need support?

Informing the School:

Informing people about alopecia can be really helpful. We often find that answering questions and talking about the condition reduces bullying, and can help young people feel supported at school. Even if you’d prefer to keep your alopecia private, letting a few key people know what’s going on can be really beneficial.

We’ve got a great list of resource for getting alopecia awareness into your school in a previous article. Don’t forget that AAAF have a School Pack and Support Ambassadors who can help you share information at your school. If you’re happy to do so, talk to your school about hosting a Crazy Hair Day to raise awareness.

One of our top tips that you may not have thought about is speaking to your school about putting a letter about alopecia into their packs for casual staff. If there are any rule exemptions for you because of your alopecia (such as being allowed to keep your hat on in class), leaving a letter can make sure substitute teachers are aware of this in advance.

We also have some great tips and resources for classrooms with very young kids, including a poster infographic, kids books, age-appropriate video and more. All those resources are available here.

You don’t need to tell everyone if you don’t want to. Telling one or two close, trusted friends can be really helpful to make sure you have support if you have a tough day. We’ve collected advice about telling your friends in a previous article.

Practice Makes Perfect:

Deciding how you’d like to talk about alopecia is an important step, but practice can also be really beneficial. Roleplaying and practicing how you might respond to questions or comments about alopecia can really help prepare for when these comments happen for real. We’ve written previous articles going into more detail about how kids can respond to comments and how they can answer questions. This can be a great activity to practice as a whole family. Siblings can often be asked questions about their brother or sisters’ health, so making sure everyone feels prepared and comfortable can be really helpful.

Taking Good Care:

School can be a tough time for some young people. That’s why it’s so important to take care and be mindful of how we’re feeling. Getting enough sleep, eating well, staying active and having supportive friendships are all very important to staying happy and healthy. Coping strategies like seeking support and making friends with other people with Alopecia Areata are also really important. There is a lot you can do to support healthy self-esteem, including staying engaged in activities and communities that your love.

Alopecia can add some extra considerations for sport, but shouldn’t hold you back from any sports you want to do. We’ve got a huge collection of stories as proof. Some things to keep in mind are sun safety, and making sure any hats or headwear are the right fit to take part in sport comfortably. Did you know hair soaks up sweat? If you have alopecia, sweat getting into your eyes can be a challenge. We have some great tips and suggestions here.

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