What is an adult child and why is that a problem?

As a parent of 3 amazing individuals, I can honestly say that parenting is the most difficult, and most rewarding job I have ever had. As any parent, we have ambitions for our children to be successful, but what does that mean? My husband and I define “successful” as “being happy with one’s self while being a productive member of society“. When our children embark on college/university I consider them to be young adults who have the ability to make their own decisions.

Our oldest is 17, and is in the process of applying for university! The only involvement I have had to date was to pay his entrance fee for the BC schools. I recently attended an online parent session for a BC university. Throughout the presentation, young students were referred to as “adult children”. I was surprised to discover how this term affected me. It triggered deep emotions of anger, frustration, and disappointment, which is why I chose to write this blog post. I would like to address the problem I have with that term, how it came to be appropriate, and my views on what needs to happen in order to change it.

Let’s begin by defining the term “Adult”. According to Google, an adult is a person who is fully grown or developed. According to recent science, in most humans, the brain does not fully develop until 25 years of age. In the US you can’t drink alcohol until 21. In BC (and 5 other provinces and territories), 19 is the “age of majority”. However, most of the US and half of Canada have declared that 18 is considered an adult. BC Ferries deems 12 and older to be adults but that is a different blog post altogether. So why does it matter what the age of majority is? There are many government restrictions in place that prevent our children from behaving like adults until they reach this arbitrary “age of majority”.

Several years ago, a parent told me, “I am not raising children, I am raising young adults.” (Thanks for the inspiration Melissa!) This statement has always resonated with me, as it is the core foundation of the parenting beliefs I share with my husband. What this means is that we encourage and guide our children from a young age to manage their schedules, take ownership of their education, and be aware of the value of a dollar. One of the best ways to learn about time management and money is to get a job.

Our government passed a law in 2021, that discourages employers from hiring employees under the age of 16. That means that our society believes you shouldn’t get your first job until you are in grade 11. Myself and my husband were both in grade 8 when we got our first jobs. Our eldest got his first job at a local restaurant when he was 15 years old. By 16, he had 2 jobs and was working 30 hours between 2 restaurants while maintaining a full course load in high school. As loving (and concerned) parents, we let him know this was not advisable and if it affected his grades we would have to intervene. It did not affect his school work. He is now 17, working 30 hours a week, still getting top marks in class, and has saved enough to cover his first 2-3 years of university on his own. Our daughter got her first job at a local retail store when she was 14 (her employer didn’t realize her age until two weeks after she began working). She works 3-4 days a week and is able to maintain a healthy school / work balance. Our youngest is only 12 and is already thinks he is doomed and won’t be able to find a job until he is 16.

I don’t believe all students are ready to work full time while going to high school. However, entering the workforce at a young age, as little as 1-2 days a week, is a great way for young adults to learn work ethics, responsibility, time management, and money sense. It is also a great introduction to taxes and Employment Insurance deductions! The first purchase that both our son and daughter made when they got a job was a cell phone plan. They both did this on their own without any help from us. Though mainly inspired by the limitations we set on their Internet access, it has taught them that phone plans cost money and they have learned to budget accordingly. It is also a great opportunity for them to start building their credit. As parents, we feel that if you want to spend money, you first have to earn it. In the beginning, our daughter took this belief literally. She had her pay cheques planned before it entered her bank account. She has been working a year now and I am proud to say that she has developed healthy savings habits. This is an important skill that will help her when she is older. By allowing these young adults to seek employment at an early age, we can guide them to make smarter decisions. It also allows them to make mistakes and fail in a safe environment. Learning proper spending habits at a young age is something our government should support, not limit.

This brings me to another limitation with age of majority… banking! Our son made himself a bank appointment last week to set up a GIC savings account and a credit card. His purpose was to invest his hard earned money while building his credit score. Also, he recently learning that if you want to be a student you need a credit card to pay for parking, parking tickets (I’ll get to this in a bit), and university entrance fees. He was completely deflated when he was told that he did not qualify for either because he was too young! Yes, it’s true. A student who is working full time and has more money in the bank than the average Canadian (Statistics Canada said the average Canadian household had an average net savings of around $9,972 for the 2021 year.) does not qualify to open an investment account or get a student credit card.

https://www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca

Although most banks offer a student credit card, it is only available to students who have reached the age of majority. In BC, that is 19 years (2nd year university). Why are there no exceptions to this rule? What more does he need to prove that he is a responsible adult? I have phoned several banks and I get the same response every time. The only option in BC (until he is of the age of majority) is for our son to hand over his hard earned money to an “adult” to invest it on his behalf. The expectation is that parents invest money on their student’s behalf. Even worse, parents are expected to apply for a credit card and hand it over to the student. What is this teaching our young university students?

By allowing students (who have jobs) to apply for a student credit card, it provides an opportunity for them to practice healthy spending habits and practice paying monthly bills. Even if the limit is only $100, they can learn about minimum payments and compound interest while they are under the safety umbrella of their parents. By forcing parents to take on the risk, it teaches children that they cannot fail. This false sense of security leads to lack of ownership, lack of responsibility, and lack of understanding. These “adult children” of today’s society are not being provided the tools that will help them in the real world.

THESE LIMITATIONS NEED TO CHANGE! It is okay to have guidelines, but their needs to be room for common sense. By not allowing young adults to have responsibilities (such as managing a credit card) until age of majority, our society is setting them up to fail! There are so many inconsistencies as well. For instance, our son got a parking ticket while attending an Orientation at a BC university. He tried to pay for parking on campus but his debit card was rejected and he had no cash. The only form of payment they accepted was credit. WHAT?!? Obviously, he got a parking ticket (not a terrible learning lesson). When he went to pay the parking ticket, he couldn’t because it too had to be paid by credit. I had to pay his parking ticket and he e-transfered the money to me. Then, I had to pay his entrance fee to apply to the university because I suppose it is the expectation that parents should be applying for university on their “adult children’s” behalf?

No debit option even though 1st and second yr students don’t qualify for credit
No option to use debit to pay for parking ticket online

As a parent, it is also my duty to pay for my child’s s education. I do not agree with this expectation because I believe that students are more accountable for their education when they pay for it themselves. Every student should have access to student loans, regardless of the household income. They need to learn about debt and interest, and how to pay back loans. When are students expected to learn this? When they apply for their first mortgage?

An arbitrary age should not determine when resources become available to young adults. Our society needs to change so those who are ready to learn life lessons early can have access to tools that best help them succeed. Rather than holding them back, we need to help young adults become productive members of our society!

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