Is turning 18 a big deal? According to many almost 18 year olds, the answer is an emphatic "NO"! Many 18 year olds are still in high school and completely dependent on their parents/guardians for the important things- home, food, clothing, medical care and college tuition. As such, they must continue to respect their parents rules. Furthermore, most 18 year olds are too caught up in the social politics of high school to consider their local, state and national politics and therefore do not consider getting the right to vote a big deal.
However, voting in not the only priviledge of turning 18. Young people are, overnight, considered "adults" per the legal system. Unfortunately, their frontal lobe doesn't mature overnight. Studies show this occurs at about age 25. Consequently, young people have the rights and responsibilities of an adult without the necessary life experiences, maturity or judgment needed to navigate the adult world. In fact, some would say that the "superman complex", e.g., "it won't happen to me", in most people doesn't truely resolve until later in life- if ever.
Here are some of the things that change when a 17 year old turns 18...
S/He is a legal adult and will be charged as such if a crime is committed
Males are required to register for the Selective Service
Gambling is now legal
Credit cards can be applied for an approved (young people are bombarded with offers from companies)
Cigarettes can be purchased legally
Younger friends pressure legal friends to purchase items they are too young to buy
Driving restrictions end (CT and other states)
Parents are no longer able to communicate with healthcare providers or university personnel without express written consent from their 18 year old
Can get a tatoo or piercing without your permission
Can be charged with statutory rape is their partner is under the age of 16-even if intercourse is consentual
Tips to address the milestone of turning 18 with your young person...
Have an honest discussion about the changes to their legal status and how this will effect them- in advance
Establish any new rules or changes so that young people know what to expect from you
Consider allowing your young person a priviledge they have been requesting to mark the occasion (something you both agree on and are comfortable with. It might keep them from doing something more drastic that you don't approve of)
Discuss the expections of being an adult and assist them in engaging in appropriate life experiences
Most importantly-- Keep the lines of communication open at all time. Your "new adult" still needs your nurturing and guidance!