Family life

Talking to your children about tattoos

When her kids started asking questions about her tattoos, Jennifer checked in with other inked moms and dads on how they talked to their tots about tats.

By Jennifer Pinarski

Talking to your children about tattoos

Talking to your children about tattoos

Tots and tats...

"Don't draw on yourself!" From the time they develop the skill to hold a marker, how many times have you told your children not to play tattoo artist? It's easy to plunk your daughter into timeout for inking hearts all over her legs if you don't have tattoos, but what if you do? I found myself in that position recently when Gillian found a marker and did just that. But then my clever six-year-old son pointed out that I paid someone to draw on me with needles and ink and that my tattoos don't wash off. Ever. So what's an inked parent to do? I turned to Twitter and Facebook to see what other parents say.

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto by kleinerkuchen via Flickr.

Start the conversation early

"My tattoo isn't well hidden and I've certainly never hidden it from my daughter. Hannah asked only once if she could get one; I told her she can when she grows up. We'll undoubtedly have more conversations about tattoos and I will broach the subject of their permanency, the importance of careful selection and the social and career implications later. For now, she's more than happy to have temporary unicorn and princess ones."  — Lyndsey, mom to Hannah, 5 and Elliot, 1, Winnipeg, MB

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto by Jenn Lambert Photography.

Hold it near and dear to your heart

"My toddler is too young to ask about my tattoos but she often points at them. The one that will cause the most questions is the large naked devil pin-up women I have on my right thigh. I love it but I can see us have some interesting chats about it! If Ruby came home with a tattoo before age 18, I would feel bad for her, because chances are she will probably regret it. If she chooses to get one, I hope it's something she holds dear to her heart like my script on my arm, that I have dedicated to my father."  Jen, mom to Ruby, 16 months, Peterborough, Ont.

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Jen.

Tattoos are just a part of you

"My kids don't ask about my tattoos. To them, the tattoos are just a part of me and the kids don't notice that it's different. They've asked if it hurt getting them and if they will come off. When I told them they hurt, they assured me they would never get tattoos. If one day they decide to get a tattoo, my only hope is that they pick a good artist and a design they absolutely love so they can be proud of the art on their bodies forever." — Kat, mom of three (ages 8, 4 and 10 months), Vancouver, BC

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Kat.

Express yourself through body art

"Eli is quite young, but definitely notices my tattoos. I tell him now what I'll keep telling them as he gets older: 'It's your body and you're free to use it to express yourself as you'd like. If you do want a tattoo, spend the time to choose or design something meaningful to you. You don't get to choose the physical features you were born with; but you get to choose a tattoo. So, if you choose to get one, make that choice count.'"  Jared, dad to Eli, 21 months, Vancouver, BC

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Jared.

Each tell their own story

"I got my first tattoo when I was 17 and each one reminds me of a certain time in my life. Isabella is always tracing them or putting her fake tattoos where Mommy has her tattoos. Good thing I don't have any on my face! I do not regret any of my 12 tattoos. When my children are mature enough, I hope they get tattoos to tell their own stories." — Nicole, mom to Isabella, 8, and Ava, 14 months, Hackestville, New Jersey

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Nicole.

Explain that it's permanent

"I have two tattoos and my husband has six, so my kids don't think anything of them. When my daughter was two she went through a phase of colouring on herself. When we told her not to do it, she would say, 'Look Mommy! I look like you!' We have let our kids have fake tattoos and they love looking like us! I would be fine with my kids getting tattoos when they're older. Its about explaining that it's permanently on your body so you need to love it!"  Lindsay, mom to Hunter, 5, and London, 4, Bowmanville, Ont.

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Lindsay.

Being 'colourful' as a form of beauty

"I tell Riel stories about my tattoos. She loves the colours and the ones that represent her. Her favourite is a little swallow above my heart dedicated to her. They don't all mean something but they do represent me in some way — carefree, colourful and fun. I still love the tattoos I got when I was younger because it's like looking in a scrapbook and seeing a picture of who I was at that time. I encourage Riel to seek all forms of beauty and tell her that being colourful is my way of feeling beautiful."  Cory, mom to Riel, 4, Winnipeg, MB

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Cory.

When tattoos are symbolic

"My tattoo is known for being the symbol of adoption: The three sides represent the Child, the Birth Parents and the Adoptive Parents, all surrounded by the one heart to represent all the love they share and connect with. I got this because I am adopted and I'm also a birth mother. My children think I am nuts for letting someone use a needle on me, but they love that it represents their brother." — Michelle, mom of three.

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Michelle.

Plan ahead

"I had a bright floral chest tattoo done right after I got married. It was on my tattoo that my newborns were placed after delivery. They stared at it while breastfeeding and all tattoos seem normal to them. Neither of them have asked me about anyone's tattoos or about how to get one, though they do love the temporary kind! If they want one I will expect an essay! Tattoos tell stories and should be well thought out and well designed, with no possibility of regret. Even if it has lost its meaning with time, it still hold true for you in the moment you got it." — Leah, mom to Owen, 4, and Alice, 2, Winnipeg, MB

Talking to your children about tattoosPhoto courtesy of Leah.

Former child stars all grown up!

Talking to your children about tattoos

This article was originally published on Jan 30, 2013
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