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I hate my son’s lip ring!
How can I get him to take it out?

Even though he knew I objected, the first thing my son did when he went to college was to get his lip pierced. Looking at that lip ring marring his handsome face is making me crazy. How can I get him to take it out?

Generational differences in body art
Researchers studying cultural rites of passage talk about tattoos and piercings that are used to mark those who have left childhood and entered into maturity. In our society, there aren’t traditional markers that let us know when this transition takes place. In fact, each cohort has its own preferences for the body art, hair styles and clothing that it finds attractive. Inevitably, control over body image passes from parent to adult child.
• Your son honored your wishes until he was out of your home. Perhaps he will agree to take out the lip ring during family meals and some of the family photographs when he comes home to visit.
• Lip, eyebrow and tongue rings usually come out because a person gets a job that requires a different look, or when she decides to update her image. It’s as unlikely that you could convince a college student to remove a piercing as it was to prevent it in the first place!
• Your own reaction is in your control. Instead of letting the piercing “make you crazy,” concentrate on other characteristics when you’re together: his twinkling eyes, sense of humor, or quick wit.

Exploring issues of identity       
During adolescence and early adulthood, individuals explore different aspects of identity. A person might enter college as a chemistry major, but a geology course steers her in a new direction. Likewise, aspects of physical presentation change.
• This time of transition in the lives of young adults can be somewhat disconcerting because they are at the helm now, not you. Trust in the “navigational charts” that you have provided throughout their first 18 years. Don’t try to take control of their ships!
• New friends come on board as key people in your child’s life. Remember that when it comes to issues of clothing, physical appearance and music, these college friends are more knowledgeable than you!
• “Oh, Lord. The sea is so large and my boat is so small.” Responding with “I told you so,” doesn’t help when adult children struggle with the consequences of their choices. Many of life’s lessons are learned through bad decisions and typically it’s best not to “rescue” your children. But a little bit of emotional support goes a long way!
    Our catechism notes that adult children gain the right to make their own choices while parents drop down to the role of trusted advisors. (CCC, 2230)

Dr. Cathleen McGreal

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