There are lots of things parents get to choose about their child’s appearance – their haircut, their clothes and whether or not they wear matching shoes today.
But there is one decision you will find is is far more controversial than whether or not your kid wears dungarees – the decision to get your child’s ears pierced.
“Ear piercing is one of the most divisive parenting topics and guaranteed to give everyone the needle, whatever their views,” Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum told HuffPost UK.
“Opinions range from it being cute or a cultural issue with a party to celebrate, to it being akin to child abuse. As with all these things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.”
So if you are considering getting your child’s ears pierced, or they themselves are asking to have the procedure done, consider these six questions before making your mind up.
1. What does the UK law say about child piercings?
According to YouGov, the law differs between England, Scotland and Wales.
In England, many salons impose their own age restrictions for piercings, but there is no countrywide legal age restriction for any kind of piercing in England.
This also applies in Wales, although concerns surrounding the issue have recently seen the Welsh Government calling for an age restriction on piercings.
In Scotland, people under sixteen are required to have a parent’s permission before having ears and other body parts pierced.
2. What are the risks associated with piercing children’s ears?
According to the NHS, piercing is a fairly safe procedure, as long as it’s carried out by a licensed practitioner.
However piercings do require aftercare, and to be kept clean, in order to avoid simple bacterial infections, that could possibly lead to blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome in severe cases.
3. How do you care for your child’s piercing properly?
NHS Choices advises to reduce the risk of your piercing becoming infected, good hygiene is important. Follow these steps:
Always wash your and your child’s hands and dry them thoroughly with a clean towel or kitchen roll before touching the area around the piercing. (This may be tricky with little ones).
Keep the piercing clean by gently cleaning the area around it with a saline (salt water) solution twice a day, preferably after washing or bathing.
Avoid fiddling with the area and don’t turn the piercing (this is contrary to advice you may have been given when you got piercings years ago).
If a crust develops over the piercing, don’t remove it – it’s the body’s way of protecting the piercing.
4. Will they be allowed this piercing at school?
With no legal restrictions in place in England and Wales to stop you taking your child to a piercing salon, one of the other issues you have to consider is whether or not this will be practical at nursery or school.
Are they allowed to wear jewellery in class, will it be safe around other young children, and what are the implications in PE lessons?
Freegard said: “Consider any dress codes at your child’s school or nursery. Some ban piercings especially in young children for safety reasons.”
5. Are you getting the piercing for you or your child?
One of the biggest criticisms you may face from other parents about ear piercing, is that because children are not old enough to make the decision for themselves, it is a purely aesthetically-motivated move from parents.
“Consider who actually wants the piercing carried out? If it’s you as a parent and your child shows no interest, there’s no harm in waiting,” advised Freegard.
“However if your child is asking – and the idea is genuinely theirs – then you can discuss the pros and cons with them.”
6. Do you tell your child about the pain that will be involved?
If you have decided to go ahead and let your child get their ears pierced, you have to decide whether or not to be honest about what the procedure entails.
Depending on their age the answer is obviously going to vary, but on the whole it is better to be up front rather than keeping it a secret (this will also help stop any children who aren’t fully committed).
“Be honest with your child. Yes it will hurt, yes there is a big needle, yes it can go wrong and become sore or infected,” said Freegard.
“Explain they’ll need to keep it clean and wear earrings long-term to keep the holes opened. It isn’t like dressing up.
“After all this, if your child still wants to go ahead then it is their decision and far better they get it done professionally under your care than elsewhere.”