Tattooed Son 

June 27 2022 | by

DEAR Pastoral Counselor: Charles is my beloved 22-year-old son. He has always been a good person. He did well at school and was involved in multiple extracurricular activities. He does not like to study so he is already working and independent. He also volunteers on his time off because he likes to help others.

There is one thing about him that worries me, however, and that is his penchant for tattoos. He has two highly visible, colored tattoos. How can I steer him away from this practice? And how do I support him while also trying to correct him? It’s hard for me to watch him change and alter the body God gave him.


It’s always difficult to see someone we love going down a path we’d rather not see them go down. Whether that’s remaining in a bad romantic relationship, spending time with less-than-stellar friends, leaving the Church or faith altogether, or altering, or attempting to alter, the dignity of the body Almighty God has blessed them with. This becomes all the more difficult for us when that person is our son or daughter. We have a deep, intimate love for that child, placed there by God Himself, and so the hurt runs all the deeper.

When we as parents see this happening, what is our common response? We rush in there like gangbusters to stop them, acting as if they are still our toddler who is about to touch a hot stove, and pull them away with abandon and close to ourselves. While this was quite effective when they were indeed toddlers, they’re simply not anymore. If we try to handle situations like this in the same manner, we’re going to inevitably end up with resistance.

Our relationships with our adult children change when they leave our household and venture into life to make their own way in the world. We need to reforge these relationships, because they are no longer our toddlers, and they expect to be treated with respect like the virtuous adults we raised them to be, and they expect the respect we taught them to require from others in a healthy relationship. Until we’ve developed a deep, intimate relationship with our adult children, we cannot expect to have impactful conversations about deep issues or concerns.

The approach we take to conversations with our adult children about difficult topics makes all the difference in the world. Principally, our approach needs to be filled with boundless love. Secondly, our relationship needs to be deeper, or at the very least as deep, as the topic, or we will, again, end up with resistance. If you want to effect change in your son’s way of thinking and acting, it must start with building the relationship. Spend time together, going on parent/child ‘dates’, learning about their life outside of your home and their perspective of the world, and make connection with them through these ‘lighter’ conversations.

Don’t approach the deeper topic until you’ve, as a general rule, had five ‘dates’ without broaching a deeper topic. This is because you’re building intimacy and depth in the relationship. Till the soil before you expect an abundant crop. When you’ve reached this point, gently tread into deeper soil, and if you are met with resistance, stop the conversation, and continue to work on deepening the relationship before you try again.

It was said of the disciples of Saint John the Evangelist that they would at times become frustrated with a certain response he would give to the various questions they would pose to him. Whether the question was about how to handle a certain difficulty between persons, how to develop a deeper understanding of the Christian way of life, or a question related to just about any other topic, he would respond by counseling them to, “Love one another.”

And so how do you most effectively handle a situation like this? You love one another deeply.

Updated on June 28 2022