Your Teen Wants a Tattoo…

I remember when my opinion of tattoos began to shift. I grew up in a generation where we thought only rough characters–like prison inmates, or foul-mouthed sailors–had tattoos. But when my friend (who had teens at the time) got an enormous tattoo expressing her deepest beliefs on her lower back…well, she didn’t fit my stereotype! Things have changed, and tattoos are mainstream…with a Pew Research Center study indicating that 38 percent of young people ages 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo.

Most parents reading this are younger than I am, and some of you have tattoos, but you still want to know how to talk to your kids about tattoos. The good news is that the decision about getting a tattoo has been taken out of your hands in Illinois:

It is a Class A misdemeanor for anyone other than a person licensed to practice medicine in all branches to tattoo or offer to tattoo a person under age 18.  It is also a Class A misdemeanor to allow a person under 18 years of age to remain on the premises where tattoos are being performed or offered without a parent or legal guardian.

So your teen can’t get a tattoo until they turn 18. They can’t even walk into a tattoo shop without you there.

But talking about it is always a good idea…so here are some things to help your teen think through that urge to get a tattoo some day:

  1. Will you get tired of seeing that same thing 365 days a year for the next 70 or so years of life?
  2. Will your values change, since the tattoo you choose will probably reflect something important to you…now?  For instance, if you want to put your sweetheart’s name on your body when you turn 18 senior year…what would it take to remove it when you break up? After all, only 3% of married people started their relationships as high school sweethearts.
  3. Over decades, your skin will stretch, change, wrinkle some day. The tattoo will change too, and not for the better.
  4. Might you go into a profession where tattoos will be thought unprofessional?
  5. Do you know if you are prone to getting keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue)? If you are, you should probably not get a tattoo.

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