Many kids, especially once they enter the teen years, want to express themselves with tattoos, piercings, and hair dyes. Parents may be upset with their children’s ideas of expression, but it’s important to remember that kids aren’t necessarily trying to upset their parents. They may be fascinated by the look of certain celebrities and want to emulate them. Talking to your kids about their desired body expression can help you understand their motivations as well as help them make well-informed decisions.
- If your teenager wants a tattoo, research the idea together. Many kids don’t realize how much tattoos cost, how much they can hurt, and that they are permanent.
- Find out where your teenager wants to get a tattoo. Some body parts are more sensitive than others, including the top of the foot, the underside of the arm, and bony parts of the body, such as the ribs or spine.
- Ask your teenager questions about the content of the tattoo. For example, some teenagers are quick to tattoo the name of a boyfriend or girlfriend. Since these tend not to be permanent relationships (even though the teenager is convinced that they are), point out that this would be an unfortunate choice in the event of a breakup.
- Encourage your teenager to try temporary tattoos (such as a henna tattoo) before getting a permanent one.
- Remind your child that tattoos are permanent. As people age, their skin sags. Even though teenagers will be horrified by this idea, it may help them be more strategic of where they place a tattoo so that the tattoo doesn’t start to change shape as they get older.
- Some teenagers are quite thoughtful about their tattoo choices. They may choose small tattoos that aren’t highly visible, or designs that show their connection to a favorite grandparent or social concern they have. Talk about the meanings behind potential tattoos before passing judgment.
- Learn the tattooing laws in your state. Some states allow children under the age of 18 to get tattoos with parental consent, while others prohibit all minors from being tattooed.
- If your teenager wants to get a piercing, talk about it. Why does he want a piercing? Where does he want to get the piercing?
- Help your teenager find a medically safe way to get a piercing. Is there a parlor in your community that does a lot of piercing? The safer ones will have medical liability forms to sign (and a parent will need to sign for anyone under the age of 18). The Association of Professional Piercers recognizes (APP) piercing parlors for being clean, safe, and professionally run; use the APP Web site to find a member near you.
- Know which piercings are safer than others. For example, piercing on the upper ear (into cartilage) can take a lot longer to heal and may be more prone to infection than piercing near the ear lobe. Surface piercings, such as those on the back or wrist, are also more likely to have complications.
- Make sure your teenager is responsible enough to do the daily care for a piercing. It can take a long time for a piercing to fully heal, and your child will need to clean the pierced area daily to keep it from becoming infected.
- Enjoy the fun and whimsy of piercing. Some kids have interesting earrings, and others have a wonderful sense of humor about what their piercing stands for.
- Some teenagers want to color their hair. Before they do, learn more about hair dyes. If you’ve never used a home hair-coloring kit, you might want to find someone who has, or go to a professional stylist. Hair coloring is tricky enough that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up with partially colored hair—or a color you didn’t expect or want.
- Do a skin test behind your teenager’s ear to see how her scalp reacts to the coloring chemicals. Some kids are highly sensitive to chemicals and will feel an intense burning when the dye touches their skin.
- You often can find temporary hair color that washes out after a first shampoo—or lasts for less than a week. See if your teenager will try this first.
- Teenagers are apt to be interested in hair dyes because it is a sign of their independence. Many kids also like to stand out at school. They might know people with green or purple hair, or blonds who now have jet-black hair.
- Be open to your child’s interest, but also set limits. For example, if you’re not highly keen on the idea but don’t want to say no, consider requiring your teen to get his hair dyed by a professional stylist at his own expense.
- Make sure your child knows that hair dyes don’t last forever. As new hair starts growing in (sometimes as early as six weeks later), they can develop a crown of their natural color with an obvious mark where their natural hair color meets the dyed hair.
- Work to understand your child’s interest in hair dye—especially if you find it upsetting.