Create continuity. During the first few weeks of school, let your child continue activities, such as swimming and cycling, that carry over nicely from late summer to early autumn. As the whole family gets ready for a more structured fall schedule, plan one last trip to the lake, pool, ballpark, or other favorite location to enjoy the fresh air and preserve memories.
Establish routines early. Start the new school year right with an achievable but flexible schedule. It should take into account the length of your child’s school day, his need for downtime and sleep, and his interest in afterschool activities.
Get your child on a regular “school night” schedule for bath and bedtime, if you haven’t done so already. He may need a few weeks to settle into a new and earlier routine, especially if your lights out policy was erratic or non-existent this summer.
Mark time visually. Pick up a September to June calendar and invite you child to decorate it. Use it to show her important dates—when school starts, when she begins ballet lessons, and any upcoming holidays. Marking time concretely can help her understand her weekly schedule and also anticipate the fun stuff, such as Halloween, her birthday, and winter vacation.
Encourage conversation. Don't be surprised if your child clams up at the end of the day—just when you want to talk to him. Relax. He may not know what he’s supposed to say—or he may lack the vocabulary to express it. A better approach: Think of a few supportive/funny/open-ended prompts to boost the chatter, but don’t force it. (Click here for our no-fail, back-to-school conversation starters.)
Be aware, too, that kids may have entirely different concerns than you imagine. They may be concentrating on fitting in with their peer group or impressing the teacher. One study found that children were most focused on understanding the do's and don'ts of classroom rules. Encourage your child to talk about what she feels is most important.