It’s one of those big moments in life, a real milestone. Your teen turns (or you turn) 18, and suddenly people start throwing around the word “adult” about someone you very much still think of as your “kid.”
But an 18th birthday is a big one; it may be the biggest one. You may shed a tear once the candles are blown out because, deep down, you understand that things are changing forever.
And even though parents may look at their 18-year-olds and still see the small child within, turning 18 is the legal gateway to adulthood.
We have looked at the many rights and responsibilities that 18-year-olds are given and some of the things they still won’t be able to do until they turn 21.
What teens can legally do when they turn 18
Civic and Legal Rights and Responsibilities at 18
1. Vote (you probably knew that one)
2. Enlist in the Military, though with parents’ permission, this can be done at 17
3. Register for the Selective Service (this is still mandatory for males)
4. Sign a legal contract
5. Change their legal name
6. Become eligible for Jury Duty
7. File a lawsuit
8. Create a will
9. Open a brokerage account and buy stock
10. Open a bank account
11. Apply for credit cards
12. Buy real estate or apply for a mortgage
13. Rent an apartment
14. Undertake pawnshop transactions
15. Get a Costco card
16. File for bankruptcy
Health and Medical
17 Consent to their own medical care
18. Give consent for their own vaccines
19. Register to give blood or be an organ donor
20. Go to the ER alone and get treatment
21. Purchase cough suppressants
22. Use a meat/deli slicer at a grocery store job
23. Become a realtor
25. Work in a bar and serve drinks
26. Drive a taxi
27. Get a license to drive a truck
28. Work full-time during the school year
29. Body modifications, like a piercing or tattoo, without parental consent
30. Travel without parents’ consent
31. Purchase a lottery ticket
32. Buy an alcoholic drink in most places outside of the US
33. Buy a pet
34. Access an adults-only store and content
36. Book a hotel room; in some places
37. Legal consensual intimacy with someone over 18
38. Buy fireworks
39. Bet on a horse race
40. Rent Airbnb
41. Use a ride-sharing scooter like Bird or Lime
42. Be free of any curfew restrictions
43. Buy spray paint
44. Be the only one at home when a service repair person needs to enter the home.
45. Buy a car
Change your family status
47 Get married without parental permission
48. Apply to find their biological parents if they are adopted
49. Adopt a child; in some states
50. Move out of their parent’s home.
Certain things happen only at 21 or older
But 18 isn’t the gateway to all rights and responsibilities. In the US, the national drinking age is still 21; the same is true with buying tobacco and cannabis in the states where it is legal.
Many states also have a minimum age of 20 or higher for renting a car. Casinos do not welcome gamblers until they are 21.
Many states issue a new driver’s license to those over 21 (the picture or orientation may differ).
In many places, renting a hotel room until you are 21 is difficult, though Airbnb allows rentals at 18.
And many states also require that someone be 21 or even 25 to adopt a child.
To all those turning 18 this year, enjoy the new freedoms, but please understand that those freedoms also come with new responsibilities.
And to all the parents of those kids, don’t forget our motto here at Grown and Flown, “Parenting never ends.”
One item that families may need once their teens are 18 and a medical issue arises is legal forms to allow parents to be involved in the decision-making. A quick and easy way to get the documents you need at a reasonable price is through Mama Bear Legal Forms. I used Mama Bear for my son, who attends school out-of-state, and the process was seamless. Use our link to get 20% off the documents you need. (We receive compensation from purchases made through the Mama Bear link, but our opinions are our own.)