Your Child Wants to Get a Tattoo

Teenagers wanting to get tattoos are not uncommon but there are many things to consider before going to a parlor

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | November 3, 2012

Teens sometimes take on heightened social awareness: war, vegetarianism, homelessness, the environment and more.

Teenagers are curious creatures. When kids turn twelve many are already into adolescence, a time of great change in their brains, bodies and lives. Adolescence can be a trying time for parents as well; one day this cuddly, sweet boy does an about-face and utters profanities as he slams the door behind him.

All teens experience adolescence to different degrees, but they all go through it. Not every child swears and there are good things about this period of development too. Teenagers sometimes take on a heightened social awareness on various topics like war, vegetarianism, homelessness, the environment and more. This can be a wonderful experience for your child and your family.

As your child becomes more a part of the world and begins to understand it better they sometimes feel empowered to make a difference. With technology at their fingertips it becomes easier than ever. As teens stretch their wings and test their boundaries— and the limits of parental authority— they will often try new things that will shock or amaze parents. For the sake of the children, I hope parents compare notes— often.

Does the artist use gloves and freshly sterilized or disposable tools?

A recent issue presented itself to Bridget, a bright, seventeen-year-old girl and her mother, Glenda. Bridget wants to get a sentiment tattooed around her wrist to remember a young girl who was murdered. I commend her for caring so deeply and wanting to express her feelings and Glenda agrees.

Kids don’t just wake up one day thinking, “Gee, today’s the day to rock my parent’s world with a shocking tat!” Other reasons they may want body art may include: the need to feel included in a group, peer pressure, joining a gang (check out gangs in your area online), they find it cool or interesting, boyfriends/girlfriends want to declare their relationship, to ‘appear’ tough or rebellious. There could be many other reasons as Glenda’s daughter shows— she feels sad for the girl that died and maybe got a glimpse at her own fragile mortality. That can be pretty unnerving for a youngster.

Parents often walk a tightrope with these issues that sometimes come out of left-field. What would you do if suddenly faced with this dilemma? Parents will want to keep the lines of communication open and honestly explore all the pros and cons with their child. Offering an option to Bridget, like perhaps a traditional commemorative ring, bangle or bracelet might suffice. She would have a concrete memento as a reminder and she could easily remove it anytime she wants.

My first response is concern— I wonder why Bridget is so focused on the death of a girl that she didn’t even know. I could understand if she was a friend or classmate, but a stranger? Is she thinking of their similar ages? Is she realizing her own vulnerability? If this continues Glenda may want to look into counseling or grief support for Bridget to work through the disconcerting feelings.

Teens often want to get a tattoo simply to feel part of a group.

For me there are only more questions since the daughter will be eighteen soon. Once she reaches eighteen she can get the body art without any consent. Does the mom object on religious grounds? Does the girl understand the process, all that it entails? Has the tattoo artist been checked out and meets state and local regulations? What about the health and safety questions; does the artist use gloves and freshly sterilized or disposable tools? Anything that opens the skin is considered “invasive,” has the daughter considered infections or diseases she could get? There can be allergic reactions to the inks or dyes and that some affect the quality of MRIs in the future. Is it possible to wait for a period of time, say one or two years, and see if the daughter stillwants to get the tattoo? Tattoos are removable but it’s not perfect and not without great expense and pain. Is the benefit still worth the risks and cost for your child to get a tattoo?

Without having any of the answers to the questions above, Bridget’s the non-custodial father gave his blanket permission for the tattoo without consulting Glenda. Bless his heart, and I bet he has never gotten a tattoo himself either. Truly, it is very important for parents— even divorced or separated— to discuss important issues like these because children are for life. Could this soon be you? Talk about it now!

Comment from: London Tattoo Artist (9/28/2013)

A good tattoo artist will always get to know the client and find out what they want and why. Questions should be asked if a tattoo seems like a rushed decision. Normally a client should come for a consultation and then be given an appointment 2-3 weeks later so they have some time to “cool off” and the artist has time to prepare the artwork.

Clients should research their tattoo artist well and look at the artists portfolio if they are experienced and the kind and style of tattoo. Only go to a reputable studio. Good tattoo studios few and far between, check if they have been in magazines or at conventions, check if they are busy or if they seem desperate for your business. Always ask the artist to only use properly sterilised disposable tubes and needles.

I think is everyone own responsibility what they do with their own body if they are an adult. There is nothing wrong with a well planned, aesthetically pleasing and well executed tattoo. But it’s a bit like finding a restaurant for a special occasion. You wouldn’t just walk into the first place you see on the day. You’d plan, research, check the menu, look for reviews and then you’d book the best place you can find.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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