If you got a tattoo without your parents' knowledge, getting their approval now might seem impossible. Although you might be tempted to hide your tattoo from them, especially if you know the conversation will be intense and unpleasant, it is usually best to be open and honest. Brace yourself to expect anger and disappointment from them, but if you are armed with facts about tattoos and can get your emotions under control, you might be able to salvage the situation.
Wait about a week until your skin has healed before telling your parents about the tattoo. If they can see there is no longer any risk of infection, some of their fears will be alleviated.
Let your parents know you are aware of the possible health risks and that you took precautions. If your Hepatitis B and tetanus shots are up-to-date, remind them of this. Let them know you selected a licensed tattoo parlor with a good safety record. Explain the safety precautions taken such as the use of gloves and new, sealed needles for each client.
Don't express defiance. Avoid comments such as, "It's my body, so it's none of your business." Such statements show immaturity and a lack of respect for their point of view. In a loving relationship, children are their parents' business.
Explain how mainstream tattoos have become. Parents tend to worry that a tattoo might be interpreted negatively by future employers. Reassure them that tattoos have evolved into a commonplace fashion statement that is unlikely to be held against you. The Pew Research Center reports that 38 percent of young Americans have tattoos.
Explain your reason for getting the tattoo. Parents are more likely to respect your motivation if you were inspired by a symbol representing something significant in your life than if you were simply rebelling. For example, you are passionate about music and your tattoo is a musical note -- as opposed to a skull and crossbones.
Address their concern about the permanence of the tattoo by telling them what you learned by researching the effectiveness and expense involved in the procedure of laser tattoo removal.
Understand their fears might go beyond the tattoo and extend to fears about your growing independence. Acknowledging their fears shows you care about their feelings and helps alleviate their concern. Reassure them that you have no intention of going against their wishes in the near future.
Accept the inevitable. If you defied your parents, trust has been broken. Recognize it takes time and demonstrated good behavior to reestablish trust. Accept their negative response with good grace. Tell your parents you understand if they need to punish you. Tell them you are sorry your actions hurt them. If you are sincere and contrite, they are more likely to get over it faster.
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- If you got the tattoo as an act of rebellion or as a way to hurt your parents, family counseling might help resolve issues. Speak to your family doctor about getting a referral to a therapist.
Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.