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An Open Letter to Parents

This is an open letter to parents. All the wonderful parents out there trying their best to navigate the difficult world of parenting and raising a child. Being a parent is, genuinely, one of the hardest jobs I can think of. Full admission- it’s a job I don’t think I’m personally cut out for. But, I do think I may have some advice to offer on a situation that’s becoming more and more common for parent’s these days- your child want’s a body piercing. And you aren’t really sure how you feel about that.

I’ll start by saying this- piercings are all about responsibility and patience. Many piercings can take 6-9 months, sometimes even a full year to heal. During that time they need to be cleaned and cared for on a daily basis, and sometimes even small lifestyle changes like not wearing over the ear headphones to not sleeping on a certain side. Piercings can be a lot of work to heal correctly. A child, of any age, from little ones to teens, needs to be ready for what healing a piercing entails, and be responsible enough to care for it correctly. If you know you child isn’t going to be responsible, I agree with telling them no. Or setting different goals first, like good grades or doing chores on time, to show responsibility first.

But plenty of kids are responsible enough for a piercing. I know I was- I was 14 with immaculate grades, attending college programs on the weekends, keeping my room clean, and generally working as hard as I could to show how ready I was to get my nose pierced. I was well liked by all my teachers, given early admission to college, and consistently written up as an attentive hard worker. And still, my parents told me no. And I get it, I genuinely do. To my mother, the thought of a hole in my nose, her precious daughter, was a high offense. I think my grandmother may have had a heart attack if I came home with a nose ring- it was simply not a style either of them liked, thought looked nice, or wanted me to have. But when they finally let me get it pierced after a full year of hard work, good grades, and begging and pleading…well. I will never forget that moment. Teen years are hard, no matter who you are there’s bullying, drama, insecurity, and new societal pressures. Learning to love yourself or feel confident in yourself seems impossible- just look at how many adults still struggle with body confidence or self love. I’m willing to bet you do too. But in that moment of getting up and looking in the mirror at my new nose ring- I felt beautiful. I felt confident. I loved my face in that moment.

Piercings for many of the people who want them, including kids and teens, are a nuanced thing. It’s so much more then just “looking cool”. Piercings can be empowering- they take a body part you may have been insecure about and give you something to love. There is agency and control in being able to choose to pierce your body and adorn it, an affirmation that your body belongs to you. The process of healing and caring for a piercing over time requires you to be gentle and kind to your body on a daily basis. Piercings teach responsibility, patience, diligence, and being kind to the skin you are in.

I am under no illusions- when many parent’s meet me I am exactly what they hope their child will not grow up to look like. Big stretched ears, dyed hair, a face full of piercings, and lots of tattoos. I know the looks I get. But I do think there are some things about me parents may wish for their children- I love myself. I am grateful, after 27 years, to live every day genuinely happy in the skin I am in. I look and live authentically the way I want to every single day. I am not fettered by what society or my boss or my coworker or the person at the store thinks of how I look. I wake up and get dressed in clothes that give me joy to wear, without a single concern of what others may think. We all have our moments of insecurity or self doubt, but I can say with 100% honesty that I love my body and the skin I am in. I know very few people, adults or children, who can say that with the same confidence. And I know I can only say that because of the freedom, self confidence, and agency I have gained from my piercings.

In the grand scheme of things there is no better time to experiment with piercings and dyed hair and your looks then when you are still in school. There are no workplace dress codes or job requirements to hold you back from looking how you want to look. You can experiment with what gives you joy, what helps you love your body, when you have the freedom to. And in the grand scheme of things, maintaining good grades, keeping the house clean, being responsible, and having a few piercings, is really not the worst thing your child could be doing (particularly not when you look at statistics of high school drop outs, drug use, drinking, and pregnancy among teens). I can not begin to tell you how many clients I have ages 18-21 who tell me all the time how much they wish their parents let them get pierced when they were younger. How affirming their piercings were, how beautiful or confidant they made them feel. Hundreds of now adults telling me that a piercing may have helped them with their depression, anxiety, or mental health

As a parent, I encourage you to think back to your own teenage years, and the things you enjoyed or wanted. Perhaps the haircut you couldn’t get or the jeans you couldn’t wear. And also, put yourself in the shoes of your child. Talk with with them- as equals- about why they want to be pierced, what this piercing means to them, and if they are willing to do the work like maintain good grades and help out around the house to show they are responsible enough. I know for many piercings are not an aesthetic they would choose and one they hope their children won’t either. But even if it’s not to your liking, if something as simple and small as an earring or a nose ring could help your child feel beautiful, feel valuable, feel courageous or strong. If it could teach them to love their bodies and cherish the skin they are in. If it could motivate them to keep good grades and teach them to be responsible. Is a small piece of metal really not worth all of the things it could offer your child?

And, as a final note, regardless if they get the piercings with you as a minor, or by themselves as an adult, please be respectful of their choice. I have too many clients who behind the closed doors of the piecing room tell me that their parents tell them their piercings are ugly, gross, unattractive, or bad. Every time I hear this I think of a video I saw recently. It’s of an older woman, in her 70’s, doing her makeup. She explains that she loves makeup, and has loved it her entire life. She also explains that every time she applies her blush, for 70 years, she hears her mothers voice in her head, telling her she looks like a clown. She ends the video asking parents to please be kind in the words they use towards their children. You remember what your parents say to you, sometimes for life. Let those words be full of love rather then negativity. I know for many parents piercings are not to their taste. But it is so easy to say “this isn’t my preference, but if it makes you happy or makes you feel beautiful, and you are safe when you do it, your happiness matters to me more then my preferences.” Rather then tell your child something precious to them is ugly, or bad, or gross. A parents voice should be the last voice that tears their child down rather then builds them up.

Piercings can be a difficult discussion for many parents and in many households. But I hope that this can offer you new insight into why people get pierced, and what piercing may offer to your child. And even if this doesn’t change anyone’s minds on getting it done, I hope it does encourage you to treat your child, and their taste, with kindness and respect. Please, do not let your words be the words that tear your child down when they look in the mirror. Do not let your words be the words that erode their confidence and self love. Build your children up, and respect their choices with the bodies. We can can disagree with kindness, and I think if we did that more often many folks would be better off.

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Thank you so much for writing this - it brought tears to my eyes. Everything you've said is so true. My mother is an artist, so she was 100% supportive of anything and everything that I wanted to do concerning my physical appearance because she raised me to be able to artistically express myself however I wished, and I will forever be grateful. I got my ears pierced when I was 5 yrs old and I remember how excited I was and how happy they made me, and still make me, to this day. I remember at 16 when she agreed to come with me to a tattoo shop to get my navel pierced - what a funny situation! I…

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I will also add that it's so important for parents to be supportive and involved with their children, because not only is it a great time to experiment for the reasons you mentioned, but also because children won't have to experiment alone. With the help of my mom, I could ask her about anything: piercings, tattoos, drugs, alcohol, etc. and she would always talk to me straight, tell me the truth, and also bring in the medical side of it with her nursing background. She would always say, no matter if it was something like a tattoo or something more serious like cocaine or hard drugs, that if I wanted to try something I should tell her and she would…

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