How to Have a Better Start to the School Year

New friends, new teachers, new routines - making the transition from the lazy days of summer to the school year is chaotic for your kids and for you. Get back into the swing of things with fresh ideas from fellow moms who've been there, done that.

Get Your Kids Psyched!

"I talk with my daughters about how the start of a school year is about new beginnings, new friends, and new opportunities. My oldest will be starting fifth grade this year, so we discussed how it's a great chance for her to let her personality shine through in the new surroundings. I encourage her to approach the new year with a big smile - it's a small thing, but it really does instill her with confidence. When my younger one started at a new school, I told her to walk in like a princess, with grace, confidence, and courage; those words alone were enough to get her excited." -J'Anmetra Burgess, 33, Raleigh, NC; mother to Kourtney, 11, and Rosmound, 4

Related: 7 Secrets of Low-Stress Families

"I talk to my children about all the new things they'll get to do for the first time now that they're entering the next grade. My oldest is starting middle school and will have his first locker, which is a big deal for him, so we're talking about buying a cool lock and other accessories for it." -Jeanette Dominguez, 39, El Paso, TX; mother to Noah, 10, Jewel, 6, and Jeremy, 6

Get Yourself Ready

"The start of the school year means having to fill out an infinite number of forms - emergency contacts, PTA sign-up, and medical information. And even though all my kids attend public school, I have to write checks for school photos, supplies, athletic participation, field trips, and more - it's daunting! To handle it, I commit to spending one morning filling out all of the paperwork. I make the process less painful by treating myself to a nice cup of coffee and something sweet, like a muffin or a scone." -Kris Gaustad, 43, Riverside, IL; mother to Kelly, 19, Kayla, 16, and Ava, 4

Related: What's Your Mom Personality? Take This Quiz to Find Out!

"I get anxious about my son beginning a new grade, so I chat with fellow moms so that we can share our angst, vent, and trade tips. As a single widowed mom, I find it helpful to use other parents as sounding boards. We talk about whether or not our kids should take the bus, how much homework they might get, and who we should talk to at school if our kids have problems. Talking these things out makes me realize that every parent has similar concerns about their kids, and when we share them I often realize that many of them are kind of silly, and I'm able to laugh at myself." -Simma Lieberman, 58, Albany, CA; mother to Avi, 14

Make the First Day Memorable

"I get up early and make a real home-cooked breakfast, and then I pack a special lunch with some little surprise for the kids to find at lunch. And despite increasing protests as they get older, we always snap pictures of them." -Sue George, 50, Lexington, KY; mother to Shannon, 20, Stephanie, 14, and Peter, 11

Related: The Secret to Better School Lunches

"I have a tradition with my kids that we always go out to a restaurant of their choice for dinner on their first day of school. It's hard to end vacation, start waking up early, and face the homework, so at least the kids get a fun night out on that first day." -Heather McMenamin, 33, Staten Island, NY; mother to Cherokee, 14, and Jessie, 12

Teachers' Top Tips for Starting the Year Off Right

KEEP IN TOUCH. Parent contact is the key to a child's success, so keep the lines of communication open. "Let us know how to reach you," says Natasha Johns, a fourth-grade teacher in Bedford, IN. "Is e-mail best? Should we never call you at work? We need this info so we can be in touch."

FILL THEM IN. It's better for teachers to know too much about your child than not enough. "Tell us about medical issues and any matter that might affect mood or behavior, like the death of a pet," says Joan Rice, a teacher in South Milwaukee, WI, and coauthor of What Kindergarten Teachers Know.

Related: 5 Things Your Kid's Teacher Needs from You

GET INVOLVED (BUT NOT TOO INVOLVED). It's helpful when you stay up-to-date on classroom notes and events. "Be present by volunteering to help out in the class and by asking us how you might reinforce school lessons at home," says Rice. And to avoid overstepping, she suggests, "stay focused on your own child's development, rather than on that of the other kids."

BRING THE LESSONS HOME. Help your child keep learning when he's at home by creating an environment that reflects the attitude that school is important. "Establish consistent routines - a place to study, a place to keep materials, and a quiet time each evening devoted to schoolwork," says Rice.

SHOW SOME TRUST! "Just as you trust the dentist to know how to pull your tooth, realize that we're specialists in educating your child," says Tammy Wawro, a facilitator for new teachers in Cedar Rapids, IA. "So back us up and believe that we're here because we care about your child's success."

How do you help your kids (and yourself!) ease back into the school year?

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.