First, where should the child go to school? Research has shown that the child’s choice of college is usually the best guarantee that the child is more likely to succeed. Take your child to visit colleges before going. Have your child do a weekend stay-over to get a feel for the place. If the child has special needs, visit the disability resource center and self-disclose for issues like physical limitations, Asperger’s, ADHD/ADD, and bipolarity. Professors and staff have been sensitized and trained to help students and provide supportive materials and environments.
Second, have a frank discussion about finances and what your offspring is expected to do to help pay for schooling. Ideally, if the child doesn’t have to work her/his first year, that will give her or him the chance to develop good study habits, friends, and adjustment to a new social environment.
Third, have a discussion with your child about how much contact you expect between her/him and you. Are text messages sufficient? Do you want frequent phone calls or Skype? Do you expect the child home for holidays and is there money to pay for the trip? Do you expect your child to bring a roommate or friend home? Also, have her/him talk to their siblings and discuss how they will remain in contact.
Fourth, have another frank discussion with your child about your interest in knowing how she/he are doing. This is a delicate issue. I would “trust” her/him. I would also get your child to sign releases, since she/he is over 18, so that you can talk to the academic advisor, the health care personnel, the dorm, and, if she/he goes to the counseling center, to the counselor. Otherwise, you can’t even be told if your child, for whom you may be paying everything, is at the school.
Fifth, expect some rockiness. Over the years I’ve noticed that kids are “out the door,” then starting in the second semester of their junior year. They are preoccupied with college and separating from you. They may also be separating from their siblings. You need to address your other kids’ needs as well. More activities together with you would be helpful. So, too, might a few visits for all of you to your counselor to see how you’re doing. What does this child’s leaving home mean to you and your partner? Is this your first or last child leaving home? What does it mean? Are you “older?” How will you fill the gaps in your lives? Discuss these issues with your counselor.