18 Going on 38: Parenting the Young Adult

October 1, 2019 | by brenda maas

So, your teen has turned 18, now a legal adult, still your dependent, and likely still in high school. Navigating these tricky avenues of new “legal-ness” can be exciting, but also trying – on both sides. Often times parents are not ready for their youngster to grow up, while said child has been chomping at the proverbial bit.

For many, this can become a power struggle like no other. Teens naturally seek autonomy. Parents naturally tend to pull on the reins in an attempt to save their child some painful lessons. Life slugs on as the nest empties.

To help ease this push-pull, here’s a checklist of things to spur a grownup conversation with your child…er, uhm…young adult.


This is one rite of passage to be celebrated. During the 2016 election, only 46% of those ages 18-29 voted. Prior to election day, however, the newly-minted adult must register to vote. This is an increasingly simple process outlined here https://sosmt.gov/elections/vote/. Register for mail-in ballot status at the same time – especially important for those going off to school, military or other travels.

Passport/Montana REAL ID

If your child has a passport, they do not need a REAL ID, which will be required for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checks after October 1, 2020. The new adult should schedule 6-8 weeks in advance, using the document checklist and online appointment scheduler.

While your child can apply for an "adult" passport at age 16, they do not need your signature after age 18. Plan for 1-2 hours at the Main Post Office – a first-come, first-served basis. The entire process is outlined here https://www.usps.com/international/passports.htm - first-time.

Military Enlistment

We’ve all seen the ads – talk to your child about military service. And, like many others, this is a conversation that should start long before age 18. But there are never too many reminders that they cannot “undo” enlistment. Those looking for a quick sign-on bonus will be un-enamored by about o-five-hundred hours.

Military Draft

Known as Selective Service, all men are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday – it is the law. And, the process is rather simple via https://www.sss.gov/Home/Registration. The young man registering will need his social security number. Additionally, this registration is also a requirement for receiving any sort of federal financial aid via the FAFSA.

Post-high School Records

Here's another quandary: The academic record belongs to the student, but the parents are often required to sign-off on pieces like student loans and student housing. Some schools will have dual accounts, with the student giving permission for the parent to view specified account information. But, if mom and dad are waiting for a report card in the mail, those days are long gone.

Life Insurance

If you do not yet have life insurance on your dependent, now is the time to buy it. Whole life or term is a personal choice, but a small policy will cost a mere fraction of what a full funeral and burial would cost. This is also an opportunity to demonstrate to your budding adult the importance of taking care of their loved ones by not adding financial stress on top of personal tragedy.

Medical Records

This is a tough one. In many cases, parents cover the newly-turned-legal-age teen on the parent’s medical, dental and vision insurance – and are accustomed to dealing with co-pay, deductibles, maximum out-of-pocket annual expenses, and flexible spending plans (FSAs). To an 18-year-old, most of these terms are a foreign language. Yet, when a parent attempts to question a billing charge, he or she will get shut down faster than you can say HIPPA.

As the parent, you can circumvent these privacy restrictions by asking your young adult to allow you access via a medical authorization form (available from each facility). He or she will need to complete the form, name the parent(s) specifically and specify the dates that information can be shared.

Tattoo and/or Body Piercing

While some young adults have already gone this route, the 18-year-old no longer needs your permission. Some may even #GetaTatSTAT just to flex their newfound autonomy.


According to the Montana Department of Justice’s website: The legal age for gambling in Montana is 18, except for raffles conducted by churches, schools, charitable and nonprofit organizations. Children under 18 years old may participate in these.

So, while the seemingly innocuous scratch-off tickets are now fair game, your youngster has been legal during all those years of raffle ticket sales.

Tobacco Products

We all know the dangers of this, but a simple ID now allows students to purchase these items. Most athletic codes continue to prohibit usage, despite the athlete’s age.

Green Card

Known as the Montana Medical Marijuana Program, potential enrollees must be over age 18 to apply or have a parent or legal guardian's written permission, along with the appropriate physician's paperwork. Learn more here.

Originally printed in the October 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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