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  • Heather McDorman

Unleashing Seven Secrets to Raising a Remarkable Redhead

Mother and son smiling
I'm so proud of my redhead!

Are you a parent blessed with a beautiful redheaded child? Yay for you! Red hair is often associated with rarity and uniqueness, making your little one truly stand out from the crowd. But I have found that raising a redhead comes with its own set of considerations and challenges.

My experience as a parent of a redhead has enlightened me about the wonder and worry that come with being a redhead. I’ll share some tips and insights to help you navigate the journey of raising a vibrant and fiery-haired child.

little redhead boy with pumpkins

My story started in 1998 when our only child, Liam, was born. He surprised me (a brunette) and my husband (a blond) by entering the world with a sweet little noggin of red hair. “What?!” I remember saying after Bob witnessed Liam’s arrival. We were both dumbfounded and delighted.

For his first few years, we were often stopped by older folks who commented on his beautiful hair but then sometimes followed up with a “he might grow out of it.” It was almost like a hopeful wish and a warning wrapped together. We decided to have fun with it and for every instance that someone remarked on our baby’s hair, we would put a quarter in his piggy bank. Let’s just say, Liam banked a good amount of money!

The first of many Liam and pumpkin patch photos! (October 1999)

During the later years of grade school, and certainly in middle school, the novelty of being a redhead had worn off – at least for his classmates. We now understood the kind “wishes” of the older men and women had expressed to us were the result of the challenges they had already lived through.

Liam was often teased for his ginger hair (negative “ginger” references were at the top of the list). By high school, when a particularly rude, redhead-centric episode of “South Park” had been seen by most, Liam was ready for a change. He asked if he could have his hair dyed. We allowed him to make that decision, and our hairstylist was successful in finding a transitional brunette shade that suited him.

Left: Liam went brunette for a year or so. Right: Eventually, he embraced his red hair – with a laugh!

After a year or so, while still in high school, Liam was ready to let his red shine through again. To be honest, it was a bit of a relief. As we suspected and hoped, his college experience was different. For him, being a redhead felt unique and interesting much like the early days. Liam, now 24, is so comfortable with his hair color that he’ll (on a certain holiday) embrace the expressions of a leprechaun!

Another Parent's Experience

My friend, Sally Cameron, who lives in Barnstable, Mass., has also raised a son with red hair. Her experience with her redhead was not unlike mine, although his hair color was not a surprise. “I was crossing my fingers that he would be a redhead. His dad was a redhead, I had auburn highlights,” Sally said. “How delighted I was that he was a redhead!”

Adolescence had its challenges for her son, Eric. Sally shared that Eric was not accepting of his red hair, especially as he entered school. “I think he didn’t like that it was a defining characteristic – ‘Hey, who’s that redhead?’ He would rather have been anonymous!” she said. “Throughout his life, people have always commented on it – and it made him feel conspicuous.”

She shared this advice: “I always told him that he needed to be good because he would never be anonymous. And he was often the one in a crowd picked out when the group was misbehaving.”

The “tweens” were very challenging for Eric. “He became a ‘goth’ wearing black and a spiked collar, and he used glue to spike his hair and dyed it blue,” Sally said. “That in itself was fine (gulp) because I always pledged not to fight with him about hair.”

Like Liam, Eric, now 34, came to think differently of his red tresses. “He is the carbon copy of my husband from head to toe, which I think pleases him – and now he enjoys the attention his red hair brings,” Sally said.

Mother and son trip to Scotland
A mother-and-son trip to Scotland was a perfect bonding experience for Eric and Sally Cameron.

In hindsight, Sally has mixed feelings about the response to Eric’s hair color. “I loved the attention he got for his hair color, too, but looking back on it I wish some of his other attributes had gotten more attention,” she shared. “Despite the angst of keeping him upright and not in jail (just kidding!), he has turned into a fine, thoughtful, kind human being. What more could I want?”

I completely relate to Sally’s feelings. There is so much more to our sons than their red hair – yet it played a role in the framing of their lives and personalities. Coming through different stages of compliments, insults, indifference, frustration, and back to compliments, we have learned a lot (although I’m sure not everything). I offer up the following seven strategies – addressing both emotional and physical wellbeing – to raising a remarkable redhead:

1. Celebrate the Unique Beauty

Red hair is a gift that should be celebrated. Encourage your child to appreciate their hair color from an early age. Teach them that their red locks are special and make them truly unique. Emphasize that diversity is beautiful and that their fiery hair is something to be proud of.

2. Sun Protection Is Essential

Redheads are often more susceptible to sunburns and skin damage due to their fair skin and lack of melanin. As a responsible parent, prioritize sun protection measures for your child. Ensure they wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen with a high SPF when spending time outdoors. Encourage seeking shade during peak sun hours to reduce the risk of sunburn.

Redheaded girl with sunscreen

3. Teach Self-Confidence and Resilience

Growing up with red hair may subject your child to occasional teasing or curious questions. Use these moments as opportunities to build their self-confidence and resilience. Teach them to embrace their uniqueness and respond positively to any remarks or inquiries. Encourage them to educate others about their hair color and the beauty of diversity.

4. Be Mindful of Haircare Needs

Red hair tends to be more delicate and prone to dryness compared to other hair colors. Invest in gentle, sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners specifically formulated for color-treated hair. Encourage your child to develop a healthy hair care routine, including regular moisturizing and avoiding excessive heat styling. Embrace their natural texture and help them find hairstyles that showcase their red locks beautifully.

5. Embrace Redhead Role Models

Introduce your child to famous redheads and celebrate their achievements. From actors and musicians to athletes and historical figures, there is a wide array of inspiring redheaded role models. By exposing your child to these positive examples, you'll foster a sense of pride and connection to their hair color.

Ed Sheeran
Musician Ed Sheeran

6. Connect With the Redhead Community

The online world offers numerous communities and platforms dedicated to redheads. Encourage your child to explore and engage with these communities. They can find support, friendship, and a sense of belonging among peers who understand their unique experiences. Connecting with other redheads can be an enriching experience for both children and parents.

7. Nurture Individuality

Remember that your child's hair color is just one aspect of their identity. Encourage them to explore and develop their individuality in all areas of life. Support their passions, hobbies, and interests, allowing them to thrive and blossom into the unique individual they are meant to be.

Raising a redhead has been an interesting and fulfilling experience. Embrace your child's uniqueness, celebrate their fiery locks, and instill in them a sense of pride and confidence. By nurturing their individuality and providing them with the tools to navigate the world, you'll empower them to shine brightly, both as a redhead and as a wonderful human being.

The journey of raising a redhead is extraordinary, just like their beautiful hair. Now, tell us about the remarkable redhead(s) in your lives!

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