I don’t at all get the piercings and tattoos. But why would I? I’m 61 and a grandfather: this is not from my era. However, that does not make it “bad” or “wrong.” For my generation it was love beads, long hair and sideburns, and bell bottoms. As children advance to adolescence and young adulthood, its normal to endeavor to express one’s unique identity. Often that entails some breaking of those conventions that these young people associate with established, parental authority. By itself, this is not at all unhealthy and I counsel parents to maintain a light touch and give your emerging young adult significant freedom to chose here.
Please allow me to add that, given the above, I also think it fair for you to inform your teen seeking body modification that they are free to make their decisions about their bodies and they are also free to pay for those choices themselves–you parents who are disinclined are under no financial obligation in these areas. Freedom cuts both ways–right?
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed current data on this fashion phenomenon. Among its findings:
- Current data no longer supports the concept that body modification occurs primarily among high risk youth and it should not be confused with non-suicidal self injury.
- Body piercing jewelry generally consists of hoops, rings, studs, or barbell shapes and are made of stainless steel, gold, niobium, titanium, or alloys. Most piercing guns are not sterilized.
- Scarification creates words and images in the skin through cutting, burning, branding. Artist experience in this field is quite variable, so caution is advised
- Carefully monitor the establishment for essential hygiene: sterile gloves, use only equipment from freshly opened packages, sterile needles, use only fresh, unused ink poured into sterile containers
- Adolescents should understand that visible body modification may negatively effect employment prospects
- Serious complications are uncommon but include inflammation, bacterial or viral infections at the site, infected blood vessels at the site(rare)– typically 4-22 days after placement
- “Q switched” laser is the preferred method
- Cleanse new oral piercings with nonprescription oral cleansers (mouthwash). Tongue piercings have a high rate of tooth chipping
- Healing times are –clitoris, urethral meatus, tongue 2-6 wks; nipples 2-4 months; 9 months for navel or head of penis
- Up to 35% of ear piercings develop mild complications including pain, bleeding, bruising, cysts, allergic reactions, hypertrophic scars (keloids). Scarification techniques carries similar risks
- Children with diabetes, HIV, cystic fibrosis, or taking immunosuppressive agents are at increased risk for complications.
So let’s be safe. But remember: you nurtured that little child so that (s)he can grow up to be a free thinking, independent, and autonomous person in their own right. This is very much of that process, so it is to be managed but cherished as an important part of their growth, development, and self actualization. As the French say–c’est la vie!!
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