1. Start counting down the days on a calendar two to three weeks before school starts. Kids need time to get used to the idea of leaving you.
2. Give your child a sneak peek at a schoolday. Try playing pretend school, says Sharon Landesman Ramey, PhD, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, in Washington, D.C. Practice saying goodbye, calling on her the way the teacher will, and having snacktime.
3. Keep your anxiety under cover. If you're worried that your child will cling to your leg on the first day, keep it to yourself. If he thinks you're nervous, he will be too.
4. Schedule playdates with some of your child's future classmates. "It's a huge relief for a kid to see a familiar face on the first day," says Dr. Ramey. If you can, get a class list, or ask friends if they know any kids who'll be in your child's class.
5. Don't skip orientation. If the school doesn't have a special day for kids to meet their teacher, see whether you can drop by before the first day. Take a tour of the building while you're there: "Ideally, the only new thing your child should have to deal with on the first day is the fact that you're not there," says Susanne A. Denham, PhD, professor of psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
6. Learn your child's schedule in advance. "It's important to give kids a clear sense of the structure of the day," says Dr. Denham. If she has no clue about what goes on at school, her imagination and fears may take over.