The teenage years are a stage for kids to figure out who they are, often by rebelling and showing their uniqueness. It’s common for your teen to use different ways to express themselves, like changing hairstyles and fashion, but now your child wants a tattoo.
Some parents have different ideas about teens getting tattoos. Some think it’s okay because it’s a way for teens to express themselves. Others worry about tattoos being permanent, future regrets or how body art could impact their teen’s future.
It can be tough to handle as a parent, but how you discuss it matters. Read on for tips on engaging your teen in meaningful conversations about tattoo art.
Learn their reasons for wanting one
Avoid the immediate knee-jerk “no” reaction, even if you are terrified of the idea. Your child might feel you aren’t being considerate about their choices.
“The decision-making process should include open and honest communication,” said Adeola Adelayo, a practicing psychiatrist with Banner Health. “Instead of instantly rejecting the idea, try connecting to understand what’s driving their decision.”
Teens can seem unpredictable and impulsive between the ages of 12 and 18, but it’s all part of finding their sense of self. While you still have some influence, most driving factors come from external sources like friends, social media and pop culture.
“The conversation might reveal surprising insights or uncover issues you weren’t aware of, like if they want a tattoo because it is the latest trend or if they’ve genuinely thought about it and done some research,” said Dr. Adelayo.
Explore the benefits and risks
If your teen has been thinking about a tattoo for a while, they might have already researched the pros and cons. Still, sitting down with your child and going through the benefits and risks of getting a tattoo is important.
- Express themselves: Tattoos allow teens to show who they are and feel confident.
- Remember loved ones: Tattoos can be a unique way to honor someone important to them.
- Cultural or spiritual importance: This may be a way for your teen to connect with their heritage or beliefs.
- Pain: The process of getting a tattoo usually involves some pain.
- Changing minds: Today, they like it. Tomorrow, they don’t. Your teen might not feel the same way about the tattoo five, 10 or 20 years from now. Tattoos are designed to be permanent and can be difficult and expensive to remove.
- Expense: Tattoos aren’t cheap. Does your teen have the money saved up to get one?
- Health risks: Tattoos can carry health risks, including allergic and other skin reactions. There may also be an increased risk of hepatitis or HIV if your teen does not go to a professional, reputable tattoo shop.
- Changing body: Teen bodies are still growing, so tattoos may change as they grow.
Explore other ideas
If your teen is set on a tattoo, consider temporary options like fake tattoos and henna — most last a few weeks.
They can try out designs to see if a permanent tattoo is still what they actually want. Agree on a location that is easy for them to hide.
Check state laws
Be aware of your state’s laws on tattooing. In some states, your teen might need written permission and/or a parent or guardian’s presence to get a tattoo before age 18. In others, it may be illegal altogether for minors.
If the final answer is no, don’t give in
Don’t give in to your teen’s pressure if you’re uncomfortable saying “yes” to a tattoo. If they’re still under your care and need your permission, it’s okay to say “no.”
Children can be persistent, but it’s important not to give in if you’re not okay with it. Make sure they’re not just giving in to peer pressure. Instead, agree on an age you might support their decision, teaching them patience and giving them more time to think about it.
If the answer is yes, here are some next steps
If you’ve decided to say “yes” to your teen getting a tattoo, here are some steps you might consider:
- Research tattoo shops: Help your teen research and choose a reliable, licensed tattoo shop. Ensure the shop follows proper sterilization techniques and safety protocols.
- Ask about the tattooist’s experience. Are they an apprentice or a master tattoo artist? Look through their portfolio to ensure their lines are straight and even.
- Discuss design and placements: Talk about the design, size and where to put the tattoo. The size and location can affect the price of the tattoo.
- Figure out who will pay for it: Discuss who will cover the cost of the tattoo and set clear expectations.
- Go with them: Even if it’s not required by law, offer to accompany your teen to the tattoo appointment. Your presence can provide support and ensure they feel secure.
- Guide them on aftercare: After getting inked, your child should keep the area bandaged for 24 hours and follow the care instructions.
Deciding whether or not to get a tattoo is a big deal. You can navigate it together through open communication, education, and a willingness to compromise.
Whether you say “yes,” “no” or “not yet,” the important thing is to encourage your teen to be themselves. Help them make wise choices that match their values and goals for the future.