The Law Makes a Child an Adult Before Their Brain is Ready

Raising older teens brings some unique challenges. Teens are apt to take risks that make no sense to adults. This may have worked well in cave man days, when such impulses could be life-saving. These days, most teens aren’t fighting wild animals for their lives…they have tempting options and their brains are telling them to go for it. Driving too fast, taking drugs, drinking, sex, and other exciting options are all around. Now, not all kids take these risks, but a parent can be taken aback that their otherwise mature, rational child got themselves in real trouble.

Fortunately for me, my kids have stayed safe so far and I pray that a good upbringing and my current guidance will help them make safe decisions through this critical phase of maturing from teen to adult. Research shows that the part of the brain that controls impulses develops last. According to this article from the website, EDdinformatics, The Adolescent Brain — Why Teenagers Think and Act Differently–,

“In calm situations, teenagers can rationalize almost as well as adults. But stress can hijack what Ron Dahl, a pediatrician and child psychiatric researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center calls “hot cognition” and decision-making. The frontal lobes help put the brakes on a desire for thrills and taking risk — a building block of adolescence; but, they’re also one of the last areas of the brain to develop fully.”

This is what scares me as a parent. As a child goes off to college, they have so many opportunities to make mistakes and the parents have so little control over their choices. The law seems to think that the moment a teen turns 18, they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves with no help from mom and dad. Kids without parents have it the worst…they age-out of foster care at 18 even if they are still in high school…but that’s a topic for another time.

As a child applies for college and financial aid, parental income is heavily considered and yet the parents don’t get the tuition bill, the child does. The child has to give access to the payment system so that the parents can pay. In that same system, the child has the option to give the parents access to grades. In other words, the parents are expected to contribute to the college education but have no right to know how well the child is doing in school.

Due to medical privacy laws, parents have no right to know what is going on with their child medically, but now they are responsible for their health insurance until the child is 26. The mechanics of this were not well thought out (even for covering a spouse on your health insurance, you aren’t supposed to know what is going on even though you pay for it). My son recently had surgery and was surprised when he got the surgeon’s bill in the mail at school. Given my son’s forgetfulness, there’s a chance that bill won’t get paid since he has to give it to me so that I can handle it.

Years ago, the legal age of adulthood was 21, which makes a lot more sense to me. The age was lowered to 18 primarily because it was unfair to 18 to 20 year old men to be expected to fight and die for their country before they were legally adults. Maybe the fighting age should have been raised instead…

Find the Joy in the Journey…even adolescence shall eventually pass, and getting to know your “new” adult children is a joy in and of itself!

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One thought on “The Law Makes a Child an Adult Before Their Brain is Ready

  1. Pingback: Cramming for the CSS–Cruelty for Scholarship Seekers | Laura's 50 by 50

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