Help, how do I stop my teen getting a tattoo?

Ah, the teenage years – a time of transformation, exploration, and boundary pushing.

It’s no secret that many teenagers yearn for a sense of identity and individuality, often expressing themselves through bold fashion choices, piercings, and yes, tattoos.

As a parent, it is a very fine line to actively support your teens desire for self-expression whilst staying calm and praying they don’t arrive home one day with a spider web tattooed on their face.

While tattoos can be a beautiful form of self-expression, they can also be a source of regret for many teens (and their parents).

So, how do you stop your rebellious offspring from getting a tattoo they may later regret?

I was that teenager who went against my parents wishes and got the tattoo (not the spiders web, thankfully). I have now gone full circle and am talking my own teens out of getting tattoos. Having been on both sides of the argument, here are some ideas to put the breaks on the body design … at least until they are a bit older and you no longer have a say in it.

If you are desperately wondering: “How do I stop my teen getting a tattoo?” read on.

Listen to why they want a tattoo

We know conflict has a higher chance of resolving if both parties take the time to listen to each other. This feud is no different.

Not only will your teen feel heard and valued but you will learn a lot if you listen to why your teenager wants a tattoo. And, what you discover will give you fuel to present your side of the argument.

A straight “no” is way less powerful than a conversation with valid reasoning about why a tattoo is not a great choice right now.

It can be tempting to scream and shout, then lock them in their bedroom with a hatch to serve meals to prevent them from visiting the local friendly tattooist. Instead, treat them like adults, hear them out and base your argument on their reality.

Chat about the long-term consequences

Your child must hear that you are coming from a place of concern, not judgment. Rather than a blanket “no” calmly explain the long-term repercussions. They may pretend not to hear, but you will plant a seed of thought that could encourage them to change their mind on their terms. 

They may want a pop-culture reference tattoo now, but ask them if they are ready to sport something they no longer like or nobody knows about in ten years.

If your teen is currently living in oversized t-shirts, baggy clothes, or jumpers, maybe in just two years they will find themselves wearing more revealing fashion and showing parts of their bodies with tattoo placements that they might already regret.

Perhaps your teen wants a tattoo that marks an emotional phase in their youth. It could be something based on heartbreak or euphoria, which in all honesty, is understandable; artistic expression is often rooted in strong emotions and passion. But emphasise the permanence of a tattoo. One can stash away a lousy poem or a hideous painting, but you can only cover up or expensively laser off a bad tattoo.

They will be breaking the law (if under 18)

Pull the big guns if your teen child insists.

It’s simply illegal to tattoo anyone aged below 18 in Australia, even when the parent or guardian agrees. If they express wanting to push through with getting a tattoo, firmly remind them that they are putting everyone involved including you, the parent, in a disagreeable position as law violators. With this, you have reasonable grounds to stop your teen from getting a tattoo.

And if they find a tattoo artist to ink them, tell them that the tattoo artist is most likely more concerned with making a quick buck than having an honourable and legal practice of his art. And, if they are that desperate, they are probably no good, and thus the tattoo won’t be any good either. 

Educate them about the risks

Some of the risks of getting a tattoo to include in your argument (sorry, discussion) are:

  • Staphylococcal infections
  • Allergy reactions
  • Keloid formation
  • Dermatitis
  • Photosensitivity

If they do not know how their skin will react to repeated trauma (remind them that tattooing is simply repetitive punctures with ink), or if they are allergic to certain inks and metals, they risk developing scars, or provoking anaphylactic shock.

You can stop your teen from getting a tattoo by simply telling them that their skin or body is not yet ready for tattoos.

Suggest alternative forms of body expressions

Instead of the standard and ineffective “no” we have already discussed, you can redirect your child to alternative ways to express themselves … ideally ones that are not permanent. 

Nowadays, sticker tattoos have evolved from basic cereal box freebie designs to full-blown artist-designed sticker tattoos that can last up to two weeks! These “tattoos” can allow them to experiment with different techniques and placements and can easily be erased with nail polish remover.

Henna tattoos are a handy, temporary first tattoo idea. Note: You must perform a skin test before committing to a henna tattoo because some inks can cause allergic reactions.

Or move away from skin inking altogether and suggest cutting/dying their hair, an age-appropriate piercing or shopping for new-look clothes. 

Show them some horror pictures

Nothing can dissuade a teenager more than the fear of being injured or disfigured.

Will they still think a tattoo is cool if their skin starts oozing pus, peeling, and distorting the design because of infection? Find some gory pics showing tattoos gone wrong and forward them to their phone.

If your teen wants the face of a celebrity on one of their thighs, photoshop an image of yourself wearing shorts showing off the beaming face of an 80’s pop star on your own thigh. That oughta change your teens’ mind and stop them from getting bad tattoos!

Help, how do I stop my teen getting a tattoo? (cont.)

Discuss the potential impact on job opportunities

While most industries are becoming increasingly accepting of visible tattoos as a rightful part of self-expression and personal choice, some jobs still call for an ink-free presentation.

Our duty as parents is to ensure our teens know the implications of tattoos and their impact on possible job opportunities.

Does your teen want a full sleeve but also dream of becoming a barrister? It would be better to pass the bar first, get into a law firm, and win a couple of cases before committing to a full arm of ink. Or maybe your daughter is thinking of that anklet tattoo they saw on their favourite influencer. It might seem cute in theory, but it can be distracting and tacky when she goes to her first job interviews wearing her nice heels and corporate skirt.

Encourage your teen to earn their stripes in life and career first before drawing them on their bodies.

Tell them the cost of tattoo removal

Tattoos in Australia start at $110. A single tattoo laser removal treatment starts at $160, and you will need an absolute minimum 4-6 of these to clean it all up.

Mistakes are costly. And painful. Laser tattoo removals are notoriously known for feeling like a bad sunburn or a rubber band being flicked against your skin hundreds of times.

Be honest. As much as you love your son’s girlfriend, tattooing her initials on his wrist will be the corniest and easiest mistake he can make on his body. Tell him he doesn’t want to be standing in a clinic, explaining to his dermatologist and her assistant what those initials stand for three years from now when he has a new girlfriend.

Encourage them to wait

In the tattoo game, patience is a virtue. Even an excellent, fully-etched tattoo artist will tell you to take your time choosing a tattoo because the last thing they want is a regretful client.

Most advise 3-12 months of deliberating on your desired tattoo. If, within that period, your teen realises they don’t want to commit to their dream tattoo, they then have you and themselves to thank for being sufficiently prudent and stopping them from making a mistake.

Tell them that waiting for the right time will allow them to gain more life experiences to form who they are as individuals. Having more profound life lessons and more meaningful relationships will also enrich their inspiration for the tattoos they want in the future.

More time will also allow your teenagers to get to know reputable tattoo artists in your area. They will have more time to appreciate different tattoo art styles before choosing a final design. Tattoos are not inherently bad. They can be a beautiful artistic expression of who you are.

Talk to your teenagers and encourage them to become themselves first … out of high school, free from peer pressure, understanding what they want to do and who they are. This way, they will get tattoos not out of angst towards the world or borne out of frustration but with certainty and confidence that their tattoos tell a true and timely story of themselves.

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