When a teen turns 18 years old, they are legally an adult in the United States. But what if your teen is far from being prepared to enter adulthood? It turns out that many teens still have plenty of growing to do before they can take on more mature responsibilities, such as working full time or moving out to go to college. In fact, many parents continue to support their adolescent-turned-young-adult both emotionally and financially for many years into their early adult life.
Yet, parents might want to know about tools and resources to support their teen in developing self-sufficiency, problem solving skills, and other skills needed in adulthood.
Rights and Responsibilities of Adulthood
When an adolescent turns 18, there are many legal rights that are bestowed upon them. For instance, they suddenly have the following rights:
- the legal right to vote
- the right to work full time
- the right to purchase tobacco products in 46 of the 50 states
- the right to engage in sexual activities with another person also 18 or older
- the right to open a savings or checking account
- the right to apply for a credit card and establish credit worthiness
- the right to get married in 48 of the 50 states
At the age of 18, a person also has a great deal of responsibility in the eyes of the law:
- at 18, males are required to register with the Selective Services System
- anyone over 18 years of age is now responsible for their actions, including any behavior that breaks the law
- adults are also responsible for paying back any money borrowed and debts incurred
Of course, with legal rights and responsibilities, a young adult requires maturity, emotional stability, and problem solving skills.
How to Help Your Teen Mature
The one thing that’s going to support your teen reach an emotional and psychological maturity is experience. Of course, that’s the one thing that teens lack. Yet, that doesn’t mean that they can’t go out there and get some maturity-building experiences. For instance, you can support your teen’s maturity in the following ways:
1. Find a mentor for your teen. Mentors can help teens look at their lives in new ways. With a mentor, a teen can get focused on life, identify their goals, and choose specific action steps that bring them closer to those goals. Research shows that mentors can make a big difference in the lives of teens.
2. Encourage your teen to volunteer at a local organization. There are plenty of non-profit and community-based organizations that teens can become involved in, which can have an influence on their view of the world. Often, when teens can play a role in a project that benefits the community, they feel like they are a part of something larger. This can help build responsibility and maturity in a teen.
3. Have your teen find a part-time job. A job teaches a teen about responsibility and gives them experience in “the real world”. The working world can open up a new door in a teen’s life where they can meet new people, apply their skills, and earn money for their work.
4. Connect your teen to a group of inspiring adolescents. Teens around the world are doing remarkable things, such as starting new businesses, standing up for the environment, and working to change the world. These are teens that have a larger vision and know how they want to make a difference. If your teen lacks vision, inspiration, and direction, connecting them with teens that do have these traits might leave an impact on them.
5. Have your teen stay with relatives for the summer or attend summer camp. Another way to support your teen’s maturity is to send them to the home of an aunt or uncle where they can have a different life experience. Perhaps they might work or earn a wage through doing chores. When at a summer camp, perhaps your teen might be forced to meet new people and use their social skills in a new way. New life situations can help teens grow, mature, and learn more about themselves.
6. Let them know you care. Letting a teen know that you care and appreciate them can help them feel good about themselves, build their self-confidence, and grow their self-esteem. It can help them feel important, seen, and accepted. This too contributes to their maturity.
These are suggestions to support your teen’s transition to adulthood. In many countries around the world, it is common that young adults travel before focusing on a career or college, as many American teens tend to do. This time of travel and exploration is a great way for a young adult to learn and have the experiences they need to face the world of adulthood.
Resources for Parents and Young Adults
If for some reason the above experiences are not available for your teen, there is another way to help your teen prepare for adulthood. You can find a local community program that is specifically designed to give your teen the support they need to enter adulthood.
There are many supportive resources available for youth with this need. Some of these resources are nationally based with access to services in communities around the country, while others are only found in your local community. Here are a few examples:
- Department of Defense STARBASE
- Federal TRIO Programs
- Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
- Job Corps
- National Academies Board on Children, Youth, and Families
- National Guard Youth Challenge Program
These are local and national services that can give your teen the experiences they need to mature. Parents might also remember that their teen is not the only adolescent that is finding their way toward adulthood. If you feel your teen is slightly behind with their emotional, financial, or psychological maturity, remember that you can support them with one or more of the above experiences.