Mom, I Want A Tattoo

Q: My 16-year-old is trying to talk me into allowing her to get a tattoo. She is relentless! My inclination is to say no, but I am slowly getting worn down, thinking she’ll do it herself without my consent. Help!

A: As her parent, you do have the right to decide. However, you know that sometimes kids will do things to each other that have long-lasting effects. It sounds like you want to know you’ve done your best to try to influence her against getting a tattoo right now. You can use this opportunity for a very thorough exploration of all the aspects of tattooing and body piercing so that when your daughter is of age, she will be making an informed choice.

Certain parts of the country and certain age groups seem drawn to tattoos. Depending on your age, background, and how you were raised, this might be a very difficult issue for you. There are many stereotypes regarding why people have tattoos and why they might have gotten the tattoos in the first place. I imagine you have already been through the phase of exploring the messages you got from your parents and the thoughts other parents have about tattoos. You may have heard a wide variety of opinions, or you might have heard primarily negative and judgmental reactions. Many mothers liken it to the reaction they received from their parents when they wanted their ears pierced in high school. Most were told they had to wait.

A good conversation with your daughter might include asking her what her friends with tattoos have told her about their experiences. First, how did they make the decision they wanted permanent body art? Was it thought about for a long time or a spur of the moment decision? Then, technically, what was the method used? How long did it take? Was there pain? How long did it last? What was the healing process? What kind of post tattoo/body piercing care was immediately required? Did the initial design work out? Did the colors (if used) stay true? If they had it to do over, would they? If they were to do it again, would they do anything differently?

Hopefully, you have had some good conversations with people who do and do not have tattoos. You are not the only parent struggling with tattoos and body piercing. These can be seen as measures that our kids may take to identify themselves as unique and to give themselves a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. It can be very difficult to get people to move beyond the fact that tattoos and body piercing might not be right for them when someone else might see it as very desirable.

Have you done your research? Did you discover that many cultures see tattoos as tribal marking and others use them for certain rites of passage? It has been used in wars as a means of identification. This information might make it easier for you to talk with your daughter from a global perspective. Has your daughter done her research? Has she learned the Oklahoma state laws? Does she know her school’s policies? Does she understand the need for standards of hygienic tattooing and parental consent and presence? Has she learned why so many states have set these limits? Does she know the cost for getting and for removing a tattoo? Does she have the money saved? Does she have a specific design selected? Where does she want it placed? Has she researched reputable tattoo artists? How?

Many tattooed adults stated that their intent was to have a tattoo that was not only personally meaningful and well placed, but able to be hidden so as not to interfere with any professional goals. Some stated that what they got didn’t always meet their initial goals. Yet most were pleased with what they chose, where they chose to place it, and the memory or specific story around getting the tattoo. They had waited, done their research, and felt in charge of the situation.

From a medical point of view, there is a reason that the law requires a parent’s permission to youth under 18 before getting tattoos. Young skin has not finished growing and maturing before the age of 18. Therefore, tattoos will stretch in unpredictable ways during these formative years. The intention for something cute, small, and easily hidden might not turn out the way it was planned. Too often someone who is unprofessional might give a tattoo. Not only is the artwork permanent, but if equipment is not sterilized and kept clean, chance for serious infection is possible. Has your daughter researched all the possible complications?

Some of these research findings might help you as you listen to your daughter’s findings:

  • It can take a few weeks to a year for the tattooed skin to recover completely from the process.
  • Complications can include; bleeding, allergies, infections caused by hepatitis, HIV, tetanus, bacteria and yeast, redness, swelling and pain.
  • Tattoos can cost $50 to get and $1,000 to remove.
  • Blood donations cannot be made for one year post tattooing.
  • Sterilized needles tend to be cleaner and safer than piercing guns.
  • All tattoo artists should be certified and licensed and wear sterile gloves.
  • Oklahoma state law requires both written parental permission and presence at the time for all minors in addition to certification and license.

Perhaps after reviewing all the information and talking with you, your daughter might consider first getting a non-permanent tattoo. Currently, they are available as henna tattoos and special ink tattoos that can last three weeks to three months. This will give her part of the experience without the permanent repercussions. If she agrees to go this route, then you both have the opportunity to continue to learn from others about their tattoo experiences. I hope you get to take your time, enjoy the conversation, and see what she learns for herself. You do not have to agree to anything that you do not believe in, but if she goes ahead and gets a tattoo when she is 18, at least you’ll know that it was well thought-out and researched.

Good luck!

Categories: Teens, Tweens & Teens