Piercings and tattoos are many parents’ greatest worries. If your teen just presented you with the news that she wants to get a piercing, what do you do? Consent, lose it, partner with the teen … or something else altogether?
The Lure of the Forbidden Fruit
To get a piercing for the shock value is a great way to rouse mom and dad out of their comfort zones. If parents lose their cool, rant and rave, categorically forbid the piercing and then threaten a host of consequences if junior disobeys, the lure of the forbidden fruit will prove stronger than the fear of parental consequences.
What Do the Experts Say?
Pediatricians at the Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA explain that parents “should discuss the legalities, procedures and risks with their children.” While mom or dad can hide behind Uncle Sam and – in California, for example – rely on the law that forbids body piercings for anyone under age 18, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that even younger kids get piercings from friends and shadier operations.
Foregoing the safe piercing operation and opting for the at-home version potentially leads to unsightly scarring, nerve damage, HIV infection, allergic reactions and bacterial infections. Piercing an eyebrow, navel, nose or tongue is a lot more complicated than merely shoving a needle through the living tissue.
“If you feel that she has argued reasonably for why she could safely have her tongue pierced, you must decide whether supporting this or attempting to forbid it will be in your daughter’s best interests,” says Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW. In other words, if junior wants to get a piercing and is adamant to the point of belligerence, admit defeat and find out where to get a piercing safely.
Safe Piercing vs. the Homemade Piercings and Tattoos
Remember that you are parenting a teen. Wanting to get a piercing is par for the course and as the child is entering adulthood, the need for independence is frequently stronger than the teen’s common sense. Partnering with the teen in obtaining a safe piercing is a wiser course of action than categorically forbidding him to go and get one. That said, there is a way to piercing an eyebrow without capitulating.
1. Express your appreciation about being consulted.
2. Talk through the decision to get a piercing with your teen. If he is an aspiring astronomer, ask him if he envisions any problems getting hired on by NASA sporting a nose ring. If junior wants to be a singer, ask her if a tongue piercing won’t distort her ability to sing.
3. Talk about your recollections about getting (or seeing someone get) a tattoo. Without laying it on too thick, recount the pain, blood and ugly side of the process.
4. Feign interest and download graphic pictures of piercings. Choose some good ones and some that didn’t go over so well.
5. Discuss the importance of getting a safe piercing and also the cost involved. Ask your teen how he plans on paying to get a piercing.
By taking the romantic aspects and the mythical cool out of piercings and tattoos – and by reducing the process to get a piercing to a basic business and medical transaction – you might just be able to change the teen’s mind. If you cannot change her mind, at least you have made every effort to help the teen get a safe piercing.
Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA: “What should I do if my child wants body piercings?”
Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW: “My Daughter Wants to Pierce Her Tongue”