Navigating the Tattoo Conversation With Your Teen

by Major League Mommy
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Statistics show that more and more people are getting tattoos. What was once a niche trend has well and truly burst into the mainstream, and you only have to take a walk down the average city street to see tattooed people of all ages, including teens.

Indeed, plenty of young people are quite eager to “get inked” and express themselves with permanent marks across their arms, legs, backs, and other body parts. And while this may be disconcerting for parents, it’s important to approach the topic in a relaxed and reasonable way if you want to avoid unnecessary drama with your teen.

This guide will take a look at how to navigate the tattoo conversation with your teen, covering the reasons teens may want a tattoo in the first place, the big pros and cons to consider, and how you can talk about tattoos with your teen in a mature and measured way.

someone getting a tattoo photo credit: South_agency from Getty Images Signature via Canva.com
Photo credit: South_agency from Getty Images Signature via Canva.com

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Why Do Teens Want Tattoos?

Before judging your teen for wanting a tattoo or worrying about all the possible risks and dangers, it’s essential to understand why they might want one in the first place. And there are several potential explanations.

Self-Expression

For generations, tattoos have been seen as the ultimate form of self-expression. And that’s why they often depict significant ideas – a lot of people get tattoos to honor a loved one, for example, or to remind themselves of a particular challenge or difficulty they have managed to overcome.

In their teenage years, young people are starting to discover themselves, learn who they are, and forge their own opinions and character. Many are therefore naturally drawn to the idea of getting a tattoo to express themselves in a powerful and permanent way.

Social Influences

Teens can also be quite easily influenced. And it’s certainly possible that peer pressure and social influences may impact their decision or desire to get a tattoo. If their friends have one, for example, or they think it might impress their classmates, they might decide to go ahead with it, without paying much concern to the consequences.

This is one of the more worrying reasons why a teen might like to get a tattoo. Social situations change quickly, and what seems so important one day can become utterly irrelevant the next. So, if a teen decides to get a tattoo purely based on social influences, they may end up regretting that decision further down the line.

Trends and Pop Culture

It’s also fair to say that a lot of teens like to keep up with the latest trends. Many of them have particular pop culture figures who they enjoy, admire, or even idolize, which could include the likes of pop stars, actors, internet personalities, and athletes.

If teens see that the people they admire the most have tattoos, they may be more likely to want one themselves. Again, this can be a dangerous reason, as teenage tastes quickly change – a teen might want to copy a particular pop star right now, but could easily change their views as they get older. And that could be a major contributor to tattoo regret.

Psychological Motivations Behind Tattoo Desires

Of course, sometimes it’s not as simple and clear cut as “copying a pop star” or “doing it to impress a girl”. Sometimes, teens can have deep-seated psychological motivations that push them towards the idea of getting a tattoo.

Maybe they’re feeling lonely or lost in life, for example, as many teens do, and seeking a way to feel more alive. Perhaps they’re dealing with depression or something like an eating disorder and want a tattoo as a way to mark their battle against those difficulties. Or maybe they’re unsure about something like their sexuality, which could also push them towards a tattoo.

The truth is, there are lots of different reasons and motivations that might encourage a teen to pursue a tattoo, and every teen is different, with their own story, thoughts, feelings, and desires. That’s why it’s so important for parents to sit down with them and discuss the matter.

Pros and Cons of Getting a Tattoo as a Teen

There are both pros and cons associated with teens getting tattoos.

Pros:

  • Independence: A tattoo can be a first big act of independence for a teen, paving the path towards a more autonomous, independent lifestyle.
  • Expression: Many teens are passionate about certain things and want to express that passion in different ways. A tattoo can be a powerful act of self-expression.
  • Social Bonding: A tattoo may be a way for teens to bond with people like them. It can foster a sense of belonging and companionship, opening the door to new friendships.

Cons:

  • Pain and Health Risks: Getting a tattoo may be more painful than a teen expects, and there are health risks, like skin infections, if the tattoo isn’t cared for correctly.
  • Risk of Regret: Anyone of any age can regret a tattoo, but teens are particularly likely to regret tattoos later on, as they’re more prone to making impulsive, emotional decisions.
  • Limited Experience: Teens are still young, with limited life experience, and may not be in the best place to make big decisions about marking their bodies permanently.

Talking About Tattoos With Your Teen

So, how can you talk with your teen about tattoos in a fair, reasonable, and responsible way? Here are some tips to facilitate an effective and productive dialog:

Find the Right Moment and Environment

For big talks with a teen, timing is key. It’s best to wait until the right moment when your teen is feeling relaxed and at ease, in a comfortable, familiar surrounding, like their bedroom or elsewhere in the family home, or at a local coffee shop. Don’t rush into a talk if the conditions aren’t right, like if your teen just finished a tough day at school or isn’t feeling their best.

Understand the Reason

The first focus of any discussion about tattoos should be to find out why your teen wants one in the first place. What’s their reasoning? Why do they feel that a tattoo is the right mode of self-expression for them? Once you pin down the reason, you’ll be able to discuss it and share your thoughts and wisdom.

Respect and Empathy: Value Their Feelings

Even if you vehemently disagree with the idea of your teen getting a tattoo, getting into an argument or yelling at them won’t solve anything. Instead, it’s important to remember that your teen is their own person, with their own ideas, thoughts, and decisions to make in life. Try to see things from their perspective and show empathy towards their feelings and motivations.

Encouraging Safe and Informed Choices

You might not be able to stop your teen from getting a tattoo, but you can educate them about the importance of doing it the right way. Encourage them to at least spend a little time researching the subject first, finding a trusted and safe place to get their tattoo, like a reliable local tattoo shop with a proven track record of success, rather than rushing into it.

Final Thoughts

Overall, plenty of teens want tattoos for all sorts of reasons. Parents are always going to have their own opinions on the matter, but simply forcing your personal views onto your teen and ignoring their feelings is never the right approach.

Instead, it’s best to approach the tattoo conversation with sensitivity and empathy, opening a constructive conversation and guiding your teen to make the smartest and safest decisions for themselves and their bodies.

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