Parenting Advisor - Is Your Teen Asking for a Tattoo or Piercing? Here’s How to Navigate the Situation

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Is Your Teen Asking for a Tattoo or Piercing? Here’s How to Navigate the Situation

A quarter of surveyed parents with high school aged kids say that their teens have brought up a tattoo, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. While some parents may be quick to say no to such a request, many parents may find themselves feeling a bit lost in knowing how to navigate the situation. While it may feel like they’re growing up a bit too fast, here’s a few tips as to how you can successfully handle the situation no matter what your final decision may be.

Having a realistic conversation

In regards to the subject of tattoos and piercings, it’s important to have as realistic of a conversation as possible should your teen ask for one or the other. According to an article on the University of Michigan’s Health blog, learning their reasons for wanting a tattoo in the first place is a great place to start, and can help in determining whether or not wanting one is an impulsive decision or something truly meaningful. Discussing your concerns for future employment is also something worth bringing up, as while many employers are more open minded, visible tattoos and facial piercings may affect employment. Talking about the responsibility that is involved with tattoos and piercings is also important when having a realistic conversation. For example, discussing the importance of proper aftercare and the role it plays in the tattoo and piercing healing process is essential, and can bring up valuable points that your teen may not have thought about. For instance, while it may take several months for a tattoo to properly heal, some piercings may take up to a year, making them a long term commitment that some teens may not be ready for.

Discussing the risks 

With about half of the parents from the Mott poll saying that they were very concerned about the negative health effects (such as infection, among others) regarding their teen wanting a tattoo, having a serious discussion about the risks involved with both tattoos and piercings is imperative. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the risks involved with getting a tattoo include allergic reactions due to tattoo dyes, skin infections, and bloodborne diseases if contaminated equipment is used. When it comes to piercings, VeryWell Health notes that infections can occur if the individual doing the piercing doesn’t have clean hands, or if the equipment isn’t sterilized properly. Certain piercings can come with even more risks — for example, VeryWell Health further goes on to note that tongue piercings can lead to damage to the tooth enamel or injury to the gums. By having a calm conversation about the risks and sharing your thoughts, there’s a chance that your teen might change their mind altogether.

Considering a compromise

If your teen is still insistent on getting a tattoo or piercing (even after hearing all of the risks and responsibilities involved), considering a compromise can offer a potential solution. For teens who want a tattoo, innovative solutions like temporary tattoos that are designed to fade away over time can allow your teen to “try out” a tattoo and see if they like it. Allowing them to try out other temporary options — like a henna tattoo, can offer another compromise. 

Faux piercings offer another option, though if your teen doesn’t have any, offering to start with simple earlobe piercings can be a great introduction. If sensitivity to metals is a concern (which is a common problem that many experience when wearing jewelry that can result in oozing, itching, redness and rashes), opting for hypoallergenic jewelry is a great way to reduce this risk. The majority of hypoallergenic earrings are made of pure metals (including gold, sterling silver, or surgical stainless steel), meaning that avoiding an allergic reaction can be easier. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no standard that a manufacturer has to meet in order to use the label “hypoallergenic jewelry,” so there’s not a solid guarantee that a product labeled as such is allergy-free. 

Hearing that your teen wants a tattoo or piercing can make it feel like they’re growing up way too fast, though having a calm and comprehensive conversation on the subject is essential in ensuring they’re aware of all of the risks and responsibilities. While many teens may be okay with holding off until they’re an adult, coming to a compromise on the matter may hold a solution as well, with many options to choose from.

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