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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Personal questions about tattoos

I was just curious on what other professionals think about and can offer any suggestions on how to handle being asked personal questions regarding tattoos. I am also inquiring about any helpful discussions or feedback to use when children or youth see your tattoos. Any feedback would be great.

Thanks in advance.

Amy Mueller

My general answer to questins about my tats, I have 7, is that they should wait and make sure its what they really want, that if they get one the place is clean and professional and I make sure to show them the 3 unprofessional ones I got and how horrible they look, how much I regret them, and then they usually take me seriously about the waiting thing ... I think you should be as honest as you're comnfortable being with any questions youth have.

Mel Hickey

One way you can approach it is about personal choice in general. Like why do they wear the clothes that they do. You can kind of connect with them of each person's personal symbolism. If the reasons for your tattoos are too personal and you go about this approach they may realize that the question may be a little more sensitive than it appears. Also you may get to learn a bit more about the children from the answers they give you.

It all depends on the age group of the children as well... One of my tatoos is half face & half skull... and while it may mean deeper things to me ...I generally tell the youth I work with that there are 2 sides to everyone...and it's about learning and accepting both sides. You could also ask what they think the tattoo means. This would also give you insight to your clients.

Hope this helps.

Cassandra Goldie

Hey there,

My standard response is that it was a decision I made after I turned 18, that it is a personal choice and I then stress the health factors i.e. clean needles, reputable artist etc ...

Curiosity is normal, I feel that shutting a kid down when they ask is basically telling them that tattoos are wrong or shameful.

This is just what works for me.


Hi there.

This has happened to me lately and honesty on my part was the best way in which to deal with it. I am very conservative regarding body piercing and body art so it was a shock to the young person when they saw mine. I explained that I had thought about it for many years and waited until I was in my thirties before going ahead with it. When they asked to see it I refused and explained that I got the art for myself and am uncomfortable showing others. Hope this helps and good luck.


I always ask the youth what makes my tattoos interesting. Usually the response is curiosity as to if it hurt or why I got it. I have always been very truthful about my tattoos. I always tried to make an effort to hide my tattoos as often as possible but they often were able to be seen.

Heather Abbott

I have several including my son's name on my lower forearm and I usually just explain that most if not all of my tattoos were done for personal reasons and that when they are of legal age they will have the choice whether or not to get one.

Ziggy Stardust


I am sure that you will get other opinions about this but I believe that if you have a tattoo (especially if it is in a place that is easily seen) then you are inviting questions and comments. Tattoos can be a form of self-expression, a right of passage, a political statement, a cultural identifier. Tattoos can be their own language. When you make the choice to get a tattoo, you are telling other people something about who you are or where you have been. Tattoos are a more accepted part of our culture (at least here in the States) and pretty common among the youth workers I come into contact with.

How to handle the inquiry is going to depend on who is asking the question.

I work with teenagers. They want to know why I chose the designs I did, whether it hurt, if I ever regret having gotten a tattoo. Sometimes it leads to discussions of why it is important to go to someone reputable vs. homemade tats or whether it is "cool" to have a tattoo when you're "old." Young children may just want to look at it, try to identify what it is.

They might be curious but in a different way. With anyone, I am going to be aware of my boundaries and not share more information than the youth is really asking for. For example, I would not share that I have a tattoo on my butt when being asked about the one everyone can see on my arm. I think it is best to be honest, talk about your tattoo when asked, but not give away all of the details. Hope this helps!


I would just tell the youth that the tattoo is personal and that you choose not to talk about it. I don't see why this needs to be turned into an issue.

Mister Home Chef

I'm responding to the question about how to handle situations when children see your tatoos. This is not an area I have ever given much thought to, mostly because I don't believe it is a critical issue.

I believe that conversations should be had with children and youth that are open and honest, letting them see that we are people with our own history, likes and beliefs. A tatoo should not be considered a "bad" thing, explain the reasoning and events which led up to you getting the tatoo and discuss ideas and beliefs around these decisions. Are we really supposed to shelter children and youth from a tatoo?

Again it all goes back to what you are willing to share. This topic can be as personal as you make it.

...but maybe that's just me?

Monica Zak

I am a Child and Youth Care worker and also have a tattoo. My tattoo is on my ankle so does not present much of an issue during the winter months but is seen during the warmer months. Many youth have asked me about my tattoo, and have often stated that they wanted one as well. I give and believe in the talk that I have with them. I discuss with them the importance of the choice to put a permanent mark on their body and it is a decision that should not be made lightly. I tell them that I considered what I was getting for almost a year before I got it and that it is something that
means a lot to me. I also talk to them about the safety issues that can arise when getting a tattoo and needing to research where they are going and being conscious of these health concerns and not letting just any person with a tattoo gun give them a tattoo.

Many youth have also asked me what my tattoo means, as it is simply the letters JGx3. This is a deeply personal tattoo and I describe what the letters stand for but do not delve into what it means to me on a personal level and I have not experienced any youth who pushed the issue beyond that. I think that they just want to know why you made your choice to get one and I think it is important to have a conversation with them about it.

I think that it is ok for youth to see Child and Youth Care workers with tattoos. It allows them to know that we are the same as other people in public, and I think that it also leaves us in the great position to have conversation with them about it. I don't think they will shut down as quickly because they know you chose to do it so they can't be entirely
against it. Like so many other things I can see how it would be a touchy subject but an important one to address with them if we can.


I have had many interesting conversations about tattoos with the kids that I work with. I believe that having tattoos lends some legitimacy to the information that I try to get across to them. I always respect their desire to get a tattoo and acknowledge how hard it is to wait when you want one so badly. I try not to judge what they want to have tattooed, but I advise against having anyone's name put on their bodies, unless it is a parent or child. I remind them that there are people who will judge them negatively because of their tattoos and suggest that they think carefully about placement, as they don't yet know what type of career they will have etc.

I talk about the permanancy of tattoos and that removing an unwanted tattoo is painful and expensive. I stress the inportance of getting tattooed by an experienced artist in a reputable shop. I tell the kids that they should avoid homemade tattoos and being tattoed by anyone who is not a professional tattoo artist. Often the kids will ask how much my tattoos cost and, although I generally avoid discussing how much money I have paid for an item, I tell them. They are usually shocked at how much I have paid, and this provides an opportunity to talk about quality and the fact that you get what you pay for.

My tattoos have very personal and significant meanings so I generally avoid getting into a detailed explanation of what they symbolize for me, simply stating that they have a personal meaning. I have never encountered anyone who has not respected this. I have never had a youth run out and get a tattoo because I have tattoos or because we talked about tattoos, but I have had youth reconsider what tattoo they will get and where they will place it. One young lady that I worked with was determined to have a basketball tattooed on her bicep, but had it placed on her ankle after we talked.

Kim Nic.
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Interestingly I have a tattoo on my forearm that I have been having removed by laser surgery which is a slow process. This was a tattoo I had done when I was 15 and there was no one around to help me make an informed choice. I work in an all boys programme and when kids ask why I had it done I enjoy telling them " I thought it would make me a man, it never worked" There is some truth in that and of course it provokes some interesting responses. The fact that I am having it removed opens up some interesting discussion too.


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