Cut Relaxed Hair

Q: My 16 yr. old daughter is mixed race (African father, white mother). Currently she has elbow length straight hair that has been relaxed for years and is rather fine in texture. At the end of the year, our family will be moving to my husband’s home country of Togo in equatorial West Africa for at least the next two years.
Before leaving in December, we decided to have short haircuts for everyone. Besides the heat and cultural issues, Togo's school system mandates that all students (both boys and girls) must have very short (close cropped) hair. This is not a problem for my husband, our pre-tween son, or for me. Our daughter is another case. She is dreading having her hair cut, not to mention the wearing of school uniforms and adapting to Togo's culture and dress standards.
My main concern is since she had her last relaxing treatment earlier this month and will not have any further ones, she will have about an inch to two inches of natural untreated growth by the time her hair is cropped close near the end of December.
Once the relaxed hair is gone, will the natural growth kink up on its own or will the weight of the long hair make it lay flat or just be spiky? Since her haircut is going to be traumatic enough as it is, I don't want to have to keep telling the hairdresser to go shorter and shorter. My worst fear is that she ends up buzzed to nothing like her father and brother will be. I'm hoping that she'll at least have a nice short Afro closer to the one or two inch pixie cut I'm planning on.

A: There will be an obvious difference in the natural hair versus the processed hair in your daughter’s scalp, and once the hair is cut to the new length the hair’s natural elasticity and wave pattern will reassert itself. (It’s like when a woman or child with very curly hair wears the hair long, the curls will stretch out and flatten, yet when the hair is then cut shorter the curls will spring back up and often the hair will appear shorter because of the amount of curl present.)
Her natural hair will follow its own genetic patterns for growth and behavior. Depending on how well you remember the way her “natural hair” behaves (or behaved before it was chemically relaxed) you will most likely see a return to this pre-treated state.
Based on what you describe (and her actual growth rate) she should be able to have the hair cut suitably short and get a flattering result. Of course, a little investigation reveals that there are a variety of hairstyles to be seen among the women and girls of Togo, West Africa.
I acknowledge that I don’t know nearly enough to feel qualified to tell you authoritatively that any would be acceptable for the Togo school systems guidelines, but it does offer hope that your daughter may have more options than a ‘partially-relaxed, short haircut’ for wearing her hair. I have found photos and articles showing and referring to braided hairstyles and plaited styles, as well as the use of scarves and head wraps that are very flattering.
In fact, I feel confident that your daughter will become more comfortable with the change in hairstyle once she is more acclimated to the new environment and makes friends whose hair is styled similarly. If it helps, encourage her to think of this as an opportunity to nurture her hair in its natural state.
See also: Hair care