Information Parents Need to Know When a Child Turns 18

Turning 18 is a big deal, not just from a parent's emotional perspective, but legally too. Here's a quick rundown on some of the big changes that happen when your child turns 18 and becomes an adult.

1

18-Year-Olds Have New Legal Rights and Responsibilities

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Eighteen is a magic birthday, a milestone into adulthood accompanied by great privileges as well as serious legal implications. At 18, your teen can vote, buy a house, or wed their high school sweetheart. They can also go to jail, get sued, and gamble away their tuition in Vegas.

2

18-Year-Old Boys Must Register With the Selective Service

Military draft
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There hasn't been a military draft in the United States since the 1970s, but your son still has to register (if he was assigned male at birth; those assigned female at birth are not required to register). You may want to learn more about the who, why, where and how of the Selective Service, plus the background of the system and its link to college financial aid.

3

18-Year-Olds Have New Privacy Rights

Doctor and patient reviewing medical file
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It's natural for parents to get sentimental when kids turn 18, but this milestone carries profound legal implications. Want to see your 18-year-old's medical records, grades, or bank statements? No can do (unless your child formally agrees). The same federal privacy laws that allowed you access to school transcripts and disciplinary records close that door when your child turns 18.

4

Sex Carries More Consequences for 18-Year-Olds

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You know that sweet teen romance, the one between your 18-year-old and their slightly younger beau? Be careful. While statutory rape and similar laws were written to protect children from abuse by older, predatory partners, teenagers can get caught in the crossfire.

What's permissible in some states means jail time in others. Enforcement can range from a slap on the wrist to a decade in jail and having to register as a sex offender for life, which can make it very difficult to hold a job or find a place to live.

5

18-Year-Olds Need to Know About the Dangers of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

pills spilling from bottle

Drug and alcohol use and abuse by college students have long been a concern for parents. As part of the process of getting your child ready for college, you need to help your young adult understand the very real dangers of the college party scene, which includes, among other things, binge drinking, roofies, and taking prescription drugs for recreational use.

6

18-Year-Olds Need to Prepare for Job Interviews

young woman at job interview

Job interviews are never easy. The idea of presenting our best selves during a 15-minute conversation makes even the most confident person nervous—especially if it's a young adult who is fairly new to the interviewing process. As newly minted graduates begin their job hunts, help them learn a few essentials that will make the interview process successful. 

7

18-Year-Olds Can Still Take Family Vacaions

Young adult packing for vacation
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Just because the kids are grown doesn't mean you have to give up family vacations. In fact, an increasing number of families with teens, college kids, and 20-somethings continue to vacation together, at least occasionally.

The trips may be different than they were with little ones, but they are still meaningful. Teens and 20-somethings are adventuresome travel companions who often enjoy a mix of outdoor adventure, cultural immersion, fine dining, and shopping.

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  1. Selective Service System. Why is selective service important?. Updated 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Statutory rape: A guide to state laws and reporting requirements. Updated December 15, 2004.

  3. Palmer RS, McMahon TJ, Moreggi DI, Rounsaville BJ, Ball SA. College student drug use: Patterns, concerns, consequences, and interest in interventionJ Coll Stud Dev. 2012;53(1):10.1353/csd.2012.0014. doi:10.1353/csd.2012.0014