Hopefully, you’ll dodge this bullet by having a kid who is deathly afraid of needles and big dudes holding them. But in the event you have one of those teenagers who become enthralled with body art, whether you support the act or not there are a few things you should do.
Awareness is actually the key to avoiding a lot of kid related crises, but with tattoos one of the big indicators is interest. Do they seem interested in the tattoos of friends, family or famous people? Have they ever asked questions about the tattoo process, do they use a lot of fake tattoos or draw themselves in marker?
These are signs to make note of, not panic over. This is not the time to level decrees. This is the time to open the lines of communication. With teenagers this can be difficult because their tendency is often to withdraw. But sometimes the difficult conversations are the ones that need to be had the most. Being conscious of a growing fascination with tattoos is the first step to influencing the outcome of that interest. Asking a kid if they’ve ever thought about actually getting a tattoo is probably not going to be the question that puts the idea in their head. So avoiding being direct won’t help you avoid the issue. But by asking the question you can get some insight into why this is something they want.
No matter how opposed you are to your teen getting tatted, it’s important not to shut the topic down at the top of the conversation. If you state flat out that tattoos are forbidden from the word go, nothing that follows will be productive. So even if you know, the answer is a definite “no” keep that to yourself. For now. Now is a time for listening, for inquiring and for trying to understand.
The most important thing to understand is they why the teen wants a tattoo. What is the driving force? Their reasoning will give the insight you need to learn more about them. Is it about rebellion? Is it about artistry, or expression or belonging? Does it seem exciting taboo, or dangerous? Do they just say “I dunno, I think it would be cool.”? All of these answers provide information and context, both of which are important to addressing the issue and often putting a stop to it.
By finding out the motivation for behind the urge to get tattooed, you can use that information to connect with your child. If it is rebellion or a need to belong, how can you resolve the root of that issue? Someone needs to, because a tattoo probably isn’t going to do it. It’s a short term fix for an underlying insecurity. If it’s about artistry and expression is there another way of directing that passion?
Open up, be honest and try to pull from your own experiences. Have you had ink done? Have you ever thought about it? What made you decide to go for it or not? Do you have regrets? The answers to these questions can help your teen come to terms with their own feelings on the subject. Now is the time for candid discussion on the hard truths about tattoos. Not only is getting one painful, ultimately it is a life time commitment. And very few teenagers are prepared mentally or physically to deal with that level of permanence. They only think they are. It’s important to discuss the risks of getting tattooed and the realities of tattoo removal. Not all tattoos can be completely erased, and it’s not exactly cheap. If possible, introduce them to someone who does have tattoo remorse, so they can understand that regret often comes with the territory.
In most states the legal age for getting tattooed is somewhere between 16 and 21. If you are having this discussion with someone just outside of that age range you are approaching the end of your legal parental control on the matter. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you make your point in a way that doesn’t rely on strong arming. The only way to ensure that even when your child comes of age to make their own decision, they make smart choices based on real facts. Without awareness, communication and connection the only thing standing between your teen and a new tattoo is a ticking clock.
Janet is a writer for a Houston based laser tattoo removal clinic. In her years, she has seen enough cases of tattoo regret to know it’s a very serious decision, not just for teens, but for everyone.