Tattoos and Teens:  What role do parents play?

teen smilingSo your teen comes to you and says “Mom I want a tattoo”.  She says it so matter of factly that it sounds like she is only asking you to pass the ketchup at the dinner table. “What?” You didn’t hear her correctly, did you?  Your bright eyed child wants a tattoo.  A real tattoo – not the fake kind she used to get as a child at the local carnival.

Your mind starts racing. How do you relay the permanency of a tattoo with a strong minded, self discovering teen?

That's not the tattoo I wantedI know I’ve heard a few tales of woe from friends and family about that “what was I thinking” tattoo. We want our teens to make informed decisions especially about things that are permanent. We don’t want it to be based on spontaneity, peer pressure or a passing moment.

So how exactly are you supposed to handle this?

  • Stay calm. If you lose it, your teen might just become rebellious. This could lead to an underground / unlicensed tattoo. Yes you heard right… there are unsafe environments out there!
  • Start with listening. Teens want to be heard; they want their wishes and opinions to be valued. This doesn’t mean you agree… but a meaningful conversation helps.
  • Ask questions. Explore why this is important to them.  Is this a spur of the moment teenage brain idea or has there been a lot of contemplation and information seeking? Also, explore how this might affect future first impressions… such as with future employers.
  • Discuss the medical risks, don’t try and scare them. Scare tactics don’t typically work with teens.  However, be sure they are aware of the associated pain, bleeding, infections, and allergic reactions.  Also discuss the more serious risks such as hepatitis or HIV if tattooed in other than a reputable inspected tattoo shop.teen with red hair

Talk about alternate ways your teen can express their individuality. Perhaps compromise with a less permanent option, such as hairstyles, clothing, and temporary tattoos, magnetic or clip on rings.

Agree upon an appropriate waiting period before discussing again. As time passes so might your teen’s desire for a tattoo.

Talking through having a tattoo will help your teen them make an informed decision… and you’ll get to know your teen better!

Do you have an experience to share with us? What are your thoughts?

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Tweet with us @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for almost 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 10 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my teen son & pre-teen daughter with my hubby in Halton.
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