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The Adonis Complex

A New Look at Self Esteem:Teenagers

Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood

A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence


by Tania K. Cowling


For many adolescents, hair and clothing is as important to them as food and water. Whether itÁs tattooing, body piercing, or the latest look in clothing, teens express themselves through what they wear and how they look. And if we remember, so did we!


Body markings today is like the long hair and outrageous clothing of the sixties; our hippie generation. ItÁs this groupÁs way of being outrageous and different. To your child, a piercing or tattoo is an outward expression that says, ËIÁm growing up and making decisions on my own, even if they offend you.Ó ItÁs a normal part of the maturing process. Legally, you are responsible for your child until the age of 18, you can say no, but how do you respect your teenÁs need for independence and avoid the rebellious behavior?


This self-expression is usually a short-lived phase. There is a very small window of opportunity between the ages of 13-19 where itÁs okay to have blue hair, a shaved head, and hole-filled jeans. This window of opportunity is a time for us as well to celebrate the changes that our teens are going through and their growth into adulthood. However, when it comes to tattoos and body piercing, parents are concerned what happens when the fad fades. This is where a lot of talking and education is needed decisions need to be made. With this in mind, try to approach your childÁs desire to make a body alteration in a rational way. ItÁs best to remain calm and unoffended when your child talks to you about these issues. ItÁs important to talk together about the following factors:


  • Passing Fads-- Remind your teen about other fads and trends that are no longer in style. Explain that while last yearÁs flared pants can easily be exchanged for this yearÁs capriÁs, a piercing or tattoo is a physical change thatÁs much harder to discard when the trend changes.
  • Appearance Ask your teen how he wants to be viewed by other people. Talk about the impact a pierced tongue or eyebrow might have on that perception. What about a fading tattoo, a wrong name when a relationship changes and even the expense and pain in tattoo removal. Talk about other ways your child might express individualism and independence through writing, choice of clothing, hair, or even in a part-time job choice.
  • Health Concerns It takes a long time for the body to heal from a piercing or tattoo itÁs uncomfortable too. The most serious risks are bleeding, allergic reactions, and infections caused by hepatitis, HIV, tetanus, bacteria, and yeast.
  • Compromise If you canÁt stand the thought of your child with a tongue bar or a tattoo, come up with a solution you can both agree on. Maybe youÁd be more apt to accept a third earring or even a navel ring. Other options may be removable temporary tattoos that last up to four weeks, clip-on or magnetic rings for the lip, nose or navel, and glue-on studs for the nose.
  • Time Ask your teen to think about the decision for a set amount of time. At the end of that time, talk with your child again about the reasons for wanting the piercing or tattoo and possible side effects. Be honest about your feelings too.




ů       Bacterial infections, Hepatitis B and C, and tetanus. Tattooing carries the risk of acquiring HIV. Allergic contact dermatitis (severe skin irritation) and keloids (thick scarring at the site tattoo or piercing). Possibility of excessive bleeding. Damage to nerves (You may lose feeling at the area that gets pierced.). Dental damage (swelling and infection of tongue, chipped and broken teeth, choking on loose jewelry).

  • Blood donations cannot be made for a year after getting a tattoo, body piercing, or permanent makeup.
  • Some people are allergic to the tattoo dye and their body will work to reject the tattoo.
  • Tattoo removal is very expensive. A tattoo that costs $50 to apply may cost over $1000 to remove. Sometimes removal may cause permanent discoloration of the skin.
  • Make sure all instruments for tattoo or piercing are packaged, sterile equipment that is thrown away in special biohazard containers.
  • Healing time varies from a few weeks up to a year.



If you decide to allow your teen to pierce or tattoo a body part, make sure you take these precautions:


  • Choose needles over piercing guns. According to the experts in body piercing, these guns are rarely sterile, quite traumatic to the body tissue and often inaccurate. A piercing needle is safer and carries less risk of infection or injury.
  • Make sure the person doing the piercing or tattoo is a licensed/certified practitioner (A certificate should be on display.) and wears sterile, disposable latex gloves.
  • After you get home, have your teen follow directions using alcohol, and/or antibiotic ointments.
  • Watch for any redness, swelling, or pain at the site of the tattoo or piercing. If these do occur, consult your physician on the best way to treat them.
  • Choose jewelry made of gold, silver, platinum or stainless steel. The less expensive jewelry often contains nickel and zinc, which can cause allergic reactions like itching and rashes.


Overall, parents and all adults need not judge a teen by the cover. Parents can focus too much on the physical things that are happening to their kids and the styles theyÁve taken on and forget that this is a commendable young person who is struggling valiantly to reach adulthood.





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