Kids playing

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Reconnect with Old Friends
In the midst of summer camps and family vacations, it's not unusual for kids to lose touch with their school friends. A couple of weeks before the new year starts, try to arrange a playdate or two with these friends (maybe even some new classmates, if you know who will be in your child's class). Feeling connected to their school friends can help alleviate some social concerns that your children might have about the new year.
Family going on a picnic

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Create a New School Year Tradition
Believe it or not, creating an annual end-of-summer tradition can actually help kids feel excited about the new school year. Try hosting a last-night-of-summer barbecue, a neighborhood talent show or an intimate family game night.

Find even more back-to-school traditions right here!
Father and daughter working on an art project

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Start an Achievement Tree
This quick summer art project will serve an important purpose all year long! Draw a tree with numerous brown branches on poster board, and create a handful of "leaves" on strips of green paper. Each time your child accomplishes something she's proud of—such as a successful day at band practice or a solution to a tricky geometry problem—she can record it on a leaf and tape it to the tree. By the end of the school year, she will have created a full, lush tree!
Mother and daughter talking

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Talk to Your Kids About Their Worries
Each child has her own source of back-to-school butterflies. While one child might be most worried about fitting in and making friends, another might be anxious about taking on the challenges of a new grade. Find out exactly what your child is nervous about and don't dismiss her concerns by saying something like, "Don't worry" and "You'll be fine." Instead, help her think through how she can overcome what's worrying her, and make sure she knows that you, her teacher and the school counselor will be there to help.
Father and daughter packing lunch

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Prepare for Good Mornings
A few days before the first day of school, start talking with your kids about what their morning routines will look like. Young kids may have fun drawing pictures of each step of their morning schedules, while older students can benefit from creating "responsibility charts" that will help them sail smoothly through their daily routines. Also, practicing things like laying out clothes and packing lunches a day or two beforehand can help make the first early morning a smooth one.
Child sleeping

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Reset Your Body Clocks
Many families enjoy relaxed bedtimes and sleeping in during the summer, so it's unrealistic to expect your kids to immediately adapt to early morning wake-up calls. At least a week before school starts, go back to your school year bedtime and wake-up time. This can help you avoid having a groggy, cranky or confused child on the first day of class.
Family getting ready for school

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Create a Launch Pad
To smooth out mornings, create a "launch pad" (out of blue painter's tape) near the front door. As part of your bedtime routine, have kids put everything they need for the next day in the launch pad—packed backpacks, the right shoes, appropriate foul-weather gear, etc. When it's time to leave, just have kids empty out the launch pad and hit the road!

Get more tips for a smooth morning
Mom walking kids to school

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Set Up for Safety
Whether they're walking, riding their bikes, being driven or taking the bus, take time to talk to your children about how they will get to and from school this year. Practice the trip a few times before the first day to make sure they're prepared for safe travels.
Family hugging

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Put on a Happy Face!
Parents experience their own set of emotions when the summer ends. You may feel sad about your children getting older, anxious about their new class or worried about how they're reacting to the new year. To the best of your ability, try to exude confidence and good feelings when talking to your child about school or saying goodbye on the first day. Seeing Mom upset can put a damper on a child's first-day enthusiasm.
Mother and daughter doing homework

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Make the First Day a Great Day
Spend time thinking through the first day from beginning to end. Make sure your children have all the supplies they need, and try to encourage them to eat good breakfasts (which may not be easy if there are too many butterflies in their tummies!). Arrive early to school to give your child a chance to remember where everything is and to see their new classroom. When it's time to leave, don't linger. Just look your children in the eyes, give them big hugs and send them on their way to a great school year!

Get more back-to-school advice:
38 ways parents can get involved in the classroom
What teachers want parents to know
6 important people to know at your child's school