When Your Child Turns Eighteen

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I think as parents, sometimes we think that on our child’s eighteenth birthday, something magical is going to happen. The truth is, they wake up the same person they went to bed as.

When my daughter went away to college, I admit to being completely blown away by the amount of students who had never had 100% freedom prior to coming to college. Up until leaving for college, these kids still had curfews, still were asked daily if their homework was done, still faced consequences at home if they did not turn in homework, and were still monitored in many other areas.

If you have never been allowed to stay out all night, what do you think a new college student does their first week at school? They end up staying up and out night after night. If you were never allowed to wake up and say “I don’t want to go to school today” what do you think a new college student does the first month of school? They sleep in and don’t attend class.

I believe as a parent, it is our job to allow our children the above freedoms in a safe atmosphere where we can guide them. For example, when my daughter was a senior in high school, I allowed her to go out on school nights and she really had no curfew. She did come in a few times at 2am and just couldn’t get up for school. I did write her a note for school and she slept. She missed school work, and now had double the work the next day. She quickly found that this was not a great choice to make. In college, making a choice like this can be much more devastating, if there is a quiz, a test, or a large assignment is due.

My daughter was not familiar with academic probation until she got to college and student after student was placed on academic probation. Often, parents do not know the student has been placed on this probation as the entire relationship is between the school and the student. The parents no longer have a voice, or receive any type of notifications, even if the parent is paying all the bills.

Most parents I speak with have the same goal. We want our children to be independent happy adults. This can only happen though if we allow them to make choices on their own.

I know that when I think back, I did make some bad choices as a teenager. I’ve also made some bad choices as an adult. I’ve learned from those choices and those choices have all led to the person I am today. I continue to make choices and continue to grow as a person. Don’t we want the same for our children?

So, while my opening sentence said nothing magical happens the morning of their eighteenth birthday, we as parents can certainly help them into adulthood by allowing them the freedom to be independent.

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