When You Have An 18 Year Old: Important Information You Need To Know

by Melanie Studer
How Your Parental Rights Change When Your Teen Turns 18|www.parentinghighschoolers.com

Your teen is an 18 year old! Your parental rights are basically gone.

Do you have a college freshman? A teen who is turning 18? Get ready for things to change in more ways than one. Your parental rights are about gone!

Did you know that you have no rights to their school information like grades, financial aid etc?

Did you know that once your kiddo turns 18, you will not be able to even make them a doctor’s appointment or call with an insurance question about your own child?!!!!! Whaaaaaaat?

What happens when you turn 18? I’m here to help…

18 year old

What do I mean by, “Your rights are basically gone?”

I found this out the hard way when I called to doctor to find out some info about one of my boys’ doctor appointments. They wouldn’t tell me anything! Keep in mind that this was our pediatrician, who I had known since the morning my oldest was born more than 20 years ago…

In addition to all of the dorm room supplies and school supplies and other miscellaneous stuff, you need to be aware of some really important terms:  FERPA, HIPAA, and Selective Service to name a few.

Once your child enters college, and especially after they turn 18, your parental rights will drastically change, as in disappear. Read on to find out what these terms mean, and how you can be prepared for the transition of your teenager to adulthood. *This post may contain affiliate links. My full disclosure policy is here.

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There are lots more tips below the video as well as great gift ideas for 18 year olds!?

Coronavirus Update

(In this day of COVID-19, the medical portion of this post is very important to know about. Your child needs to let his medical providers know that he or she gives permission to you for medical treatment. In most cases, the virus has been mild for young adults. However, the doctors are saying, if a case becomes severe, it can happen very rapidly.)

Please read the section below about HIPAA carefully. And, check out this website for more information about making sure that you have the correct documents.

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Parental Rights Change When Your Teen is an 18 year old|www.parentinghighschoolers.com

What you and your 18 year old need to know!

What is FERPA?

FERPA  stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. So, let’s say that you suspect that your child has been skipping classes, or you want to make sure that your child didn’t drop a class and scoop up that money. You cannot find out from the college unless the FERPA has been signed!

FERPA is the law that protects student educational records. It includes protections for … a child’s education records, such as, report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules. Find out what FERPA compliance means, and how you and your teen can work together with this law.

Parental rights change when your teen is an 18 year old.

This means that at the age of 18, all rights that you have had as a parent regarding these types of information transfer to your student.

There are exceptions when a school may, but IS NOT REQUIRED to-share this information about the student’s educational records. The exceptions include situations where the student’s health or safety may be at risk, instances of drugs or alcohol if the student is under the age of 21 and/or if the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.

The point being, that unless your student signs the FERPA when registering for classes or at student orientation or at any time, then you may or MAY NOT be able to see your child’s grades, see their financial records at the school or be able to help make decisions regarding their health should a situation occur on campus.

It is a simple form that carries significant weight.

The truth is that your child will not necessarily know what this is!

Unless you basically make your teen sign the FERPA, then you will be out of luck when trying to communicate with the school if you want any real answers. Look for this when your child is uploading all of their info to their college once they are accepted.

Parental rights change when your teen is an 18 year old.


Here’s another example of parental loss of power… Your child has gone to the health clinic at their college. You call the clinic to find out more information from them about the diagnosis because your child cannot tell you much since they didn’t really listen. No can do. Unless your child has signed the HIPAA and put your name on it!

HIPAA is another governmental term. The Health Information and Portability Accountability Act comes into action when your teen turns 18. Up until this point, you as the parent have signed the HIPAA form at all doctors visits. This includes dental, vision, and insurance information as well as primary care.

Your 18 year old will need to sign this form and list any adults who may be given information regarding their health. If you are not on that list, then you will not be privy to any of that information. (A really good description for an 18 year old to read about what the HIPAA means is here.)

Another option to consider is a durable power of attorney.

This would need to be signed by your teen once they are 18. This would be a really good thing to have in place if for some reason your child were to become incapacitated in some way. It is recommended that you get a power of attorney for the state that your teen goes to college in, as well as the state of permanent residence.

Check out Mama Bear Legal Forms. They offer both health and financial power of attorney legal documents. We have had these drawn up for our two oldest boys while they are in college. It took about 15 minutes to fill in the blanks, and print out! I have heard horror stories about parents not being able to make medical decisions for their kids because this was not in place, so please do this for your peace of mind.

One more tip that I would like to share, and you will laugh because it’s so easy… Please have your teen memorize their social security number! This will come in handy in so many situations, especially medical ones!

Selective Service

Once your son turns 18, he needs to register with the Selective Service. He will have 30 days to do so. It is a federal offense not to register. He will be unable to get a driver’s license or apply for student loans or grants. There is a hefty fine of $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison for not signing up.

Conscientious objectors and disabled persons need to register as well. If the draft ever comes back, those individuals can can register their objections or disabilities then.

At this point in time, girls do not have to sign up for this.

Parental rights change when your teen is an 18 year old.

Legal Implications for an 18 year old

Turning 18 has many implications. In most states, being 18 is considered being an adult-age of majority. Some things to consider about turning 18 responsibilities…

As an adult, a person can buy property, vote, or even get married in most states. Jury duty is now a possibility as well.

As an adult, a person can now be put in prison if convicted of a crime, can legally gamble, and can now be sued. Not all fun and games for the teenager to adulthood transition!

One tool that young adults may want to take advantage of is life insurance. It all depends on circumstances. Some young people may be facing financial hardships or want to utilize life insurance as an investment tool. Here is a quick link to a guide explaining more about this.

One more thing that your 18 year old needs to consider. Sex. If your son or daughter is dating someone younger than them, which many of them are, then they can be charged with, and be prosecuted with statutory rape. This varies from state to state, and the description of what that means also varies from state to state. Also, sexting as an adult is a crime. It is distribution of pornography. Please make them aware of this!

140+ Resources for Parents of Teens

Financial Knowledge

Are you wondering what you should be teaching your teen about money? Saving? Investing? This knowledge is so important for our kids as they leave for college and/or beyond. I so wish that I had known all of this when I was their age!

I have found this awesome resource. It’s called 5 Things Parents Must Teach Kids About Money. There is also Millionaire by 51. Both of these are from my new friend in the blogging world, John Q. Miller aka. “Daddy401k” He was in our Next Phase Parenting Summit back in January, and had so much great information!

Here is a little bit about John-  ‘ I’m John Q. Miller and I’m been a financial coach of some sort for over 20 years. I have a passion for financial literacy for kids. I especially like to share how my wife and I raised our two daughters and taught them lifelong lessons about personal finance. We gave them a head start for financial freedom that we didn’t have when we ventured out into the world as young adults.’

Parental rights change when your teen is an 18 year old.

This is a lot!

All of it is important! Be sure that you and your teen have discussions about all of this over time. Turning 18 means a lot of new things. These are big topics, so don’t try to discuss it all at once.

Your role as a parent will definitely change, and that’s a good thing! Just know that as you lose your parental rights, they are gaining their rights as adults, and that’s a good thing too!

I feel your pain, but hope that this information helps you along this crazy journey as our kids become adults!

Related posts:

My Senior Is Pulling Away

What Will My Freshman Really Need in the Dorm?

Ways to Help Support Your Teen Get Ready For Finals

If you have a younger teen, check out my Parent Toolkit for Surviving High School

**I am now writing at a new website: Next Phase Parenting! Check it out!

Gifts for turning 18!

Large initial necklace –

Paracord bracelet


Almost Adulting

Adult Coloring Book


I would love to stay in touch!

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Parental Rights Change When Your Teen is an 18 year old|www.parentinghighschoolers.com

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Hello! My name is Melanie and I love to encourage moms of teens and tweens!

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  1. When my son turned 18 (some years ago, now) – learning all this you mention was a shock. I didn’t know of the existence of the FERPA form, either (and apparently, no one was about to tell my husband or myself) but it appears to have been around for many years. As they say, knowledge is power, because your teen does need to be prepared for his or her role as an adult – and it is the parent’s responsibility to educate them.

    • I know right? As each thing happened to us, I kept thinking, “Why did no one tell me all of this?!” Hence, this blog post, so that hopefully a few people can read this before or as this is happening. It has gone so much more smoothly with my second 18 year old. Knowledge is power, so hopefully this will help others.

    • You are welcome. This came about because all of these things were learned the hard way through all of our older kids.
      At least knowing it this time with our freshman, who just turned 18, made things a lot easier!

  2. We have been there when our college son had an emergency appendectomy 6 hours away from us. We had to have him sign a form so we could talk to the insurance company on his behalf to straighten out all of the billing. It is a whole new world when they are over 18 and are an “adult” in the eyes of institutions and the law, but still need your help navigating it all. I wrote a post about it: https://www.almostemptynest.net/college-student-medical-emergency/ if you would like to read about our experience.

    • Wow! I’ve heard of this happening, so I will definitely read your post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Our kiddos are all grown up now, but I remember being surprised to learn all of this when our first went to college. This is good information you’re providing for people who might be unaware.

    • Us too! We would love for you to share this with your friends who have teens!

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this. So many people have no idea. You can pay college tuition and not have a right to see their grades????

    • I know right?!!! It was such a shock to us every time one of these happened with our first son. Hoping to help others with this info:)

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    • Thank you! We love that people are starting to find our blog!

  6. Excellent post. I did a smilier research project for a blog about four years ago. It’s tedious. This provides great information in an easy to read form. Thanks.

    • “All the things” can be overwhelming! Thank you for your kind words.

  7. so important- my 20 year old had a panic attack and when we called the doctor at 2am this came up – fortunately she is also a family friend and my kid was consenting- need to get some papers in order before they go back to campus!

    • Yes! I am so glad that worked out for your family. It’s amazing what you don’t know that you don’t know.

  8. I have all my college stuff figured out in a different state than him. I am about to turn 18 and my plan was to leave my father and go off to college with my friend and plan our future together but he is making me stay with him. I purchased my own plane ticket and I was provided a place to stay while I am in college. I need some help because my father is not letting me leave him even though I am 18

    • Please check your email.

    • Do you have any advice for parents whose son will turn 18 the spring of his junior year?

      • Be sure that he knows the subjects that I discuss in the post. He will have advantages as an 18 year old, but also more responsibility. I think as long as our kids know their rights and what our expectations are, it makes it easier as they head into their adult years.

  9. My daughter will be turning 12 soon and of course acts like she’s 18. Wow, it’s something that’s not even on my radar yet certainly should be, so thank you.

  10. Excellent post and so helpful! My first born turns 18 tomorrow, he’s still a senior in high school, and he certainly isn’t ready to be an ‘adult’! Glad to have these steps to take to make sure we are there to help him out if he needs us.

    • Isn’t it true?! Society has somehow decided that 18 is a magic number. I am glad that you found it all helpful Let me know if you have more questions because I am always looking for more topics to write about!

  11. How do you not know this? Everyone knows an 18 year old is legally an adult.

    Of coarse, if they are staying at your house with free rent, you still have quite a say in their life as their new land lord.

    It is a bit weird to have a kid in high school who is 18. As far as college, if you are their chief investor in their education, you can always demand seeing their transcript before cutting any checks for living expenses. Even Warren Buffet has to produce results to get paid.

    • A lot of people are surprised by all the legalities of their teen turning 18, even though they know that it means that the child has now become an adult. This is my most popular post because parents want to know what they DON’T know. Many kids are still in high school when they turn 18, it’s about 50/50. And, you are correct that the child should produce the grades to the parents, but there are other legal implications in the FERPA as well. Thank you for your comments.

  12. Our sons are now 29 and 25, but I do remember dealing with the HIPPA laws while Malik was in college.

  13. As usual, I pinned it to my parenting board. !

  14. Thank you for the link to the HIPPA explanation! That medical practice did a great job. All offices should follow suit. Definitely will have my son take a look as we talk about this next stage of life.

    Thank God no drastic or bad things happened to me as a young adult, so my parents didn’t hit any legal roadblocks. We had no idea how becoming an adult affects a parent’s ability to assist their child at crucial times.

    Thanks again for this information God bless you.

    • You are welcome. I think that our young adults deserve to know why they are doing what we ask them to do!

  15. My wife and I missed the boat on this information and now it’s too late!
    Our son turned 18 on 24-Oct, and then just snuck-out / ran away from home yesterday!!. I know to most, it may technically be ‘left home’, but when it’s at 1:00 am and thru the window, it’s running away to me. We don’t know where he is staying, but am fairly certain he is still going to school. He is an honor student, and plans to go to college – probably with honors & scholarships. We tried communicating our concerns with the school, but their answer is pretty much: Tough – He’s 18. SO much wrong with the system that the school district will require me to answer so many questions about my household, and provide evidence of residence at the beginning of the year, but for a brand new adult, they just take their word for it? There is NO WAY that he has any bills or proof of where he is staying, with his name on it.

    Desperately trying to figure out how I can still be part of his life, but for what ever reason, he is isolating and blocking each step we make.

    • I am so sorry about this situation. We had some rebellion, but it happened when they were younger. It sounds like running away to me as well, but I don’t know the whole story. You do have options, to either do the tough love thing and change the locks or remain loving and supportive as he works through whatever is going on. Maybe try to meet up with him at a neutral location to talk. Ask him what is up. I would also suggest some counseling for the family. If college is on his horizon, he will need your support. One of the topics for the conversation needs to be what his thoughts are from here. I wish for you wisdom and discernment.


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