As a parent or guardian of school-aged children, you’re probably familiar with the extreme relief kids feel at the end of a grueling school year. All they want is to stay up late every night, watch movies, play in the swimming pool or on the computer, and generally get away from anything that feels like school work.

By the end of the summer, your kids may not feel up to returning to school… or they might be very ready to get back into a routine after all the disorganization a typical summer entails. Either way, here are some questions many parents have about finding the back-to-school routine again.

1. How do I readjust my kids to a school routine after a crazy summer?

One of the hardest parts is getting your kids to wake up on time every morning after they’ve been sleeping in or staying up late. Start a week or two before the first day of school and set a firm bedtime, then move the bedtime backwards until it’s back at the regular school-day bedtime at least a week before school starts.

This will help get kids’ bodies programmed to wake up and go to sleep at the right times again, and particularly with teens or older children, it’s one of the most important things to do so your kids are refreshed and ready to learn every morning.

You should also start encouraging kids to eat healthily again if they’ve been overindulging in snack foods and unhealthy foods, as many do over the summer. A little exercise each day will keep young bodies in balance (as well as older ones!), and can provide for some family time when kids have been off exploring or at camp without you.

2. What can I do to encourage my children to play with their old friends?

It’s hard to undergo change, and particularly for kids, when it seems like their friends have grown a foot and a beard over the summer! Interests change, families go on vacation, or kids suddenly decide that they’re “into” something new and abandon their groups of friends.

Still, old friends can be your child’s best friends. Encourage your kids to contact their old friends a week or two before school starts to check in with them, find out what classes they will be in together, or just see how their summer went. They will probably reconnect with some friends, but there will inevitably be some friends that they just aren’t so close to anymore.

They may need some support when they realize that they aren’t good friends with some kids anymore. Take care to explain to them why and reassure them that this happens to everyone, and encourage them to make more friends.

3. How can I make sure everyone is prepared early?

Gathering school supplies, checking the locations of classrooms or different school buildings, and explaining the things your child is unfamiliar with will all help to prepare your child. Start this two weeks or so before school for best results, but even a few days before school isn’t too late.

Not only will they be armed with materials and knowledge, but their mind will start to shift to the school routine again, rather than being stuck on the fun of summer!

4. Is a calendar or daily planner the best way of tracking things?

Different families find different results. Some families like to keep a big calendar with oversized squares for everyone to write their recitals, practices, big days, tests, and commitments on. If you choose this system, find stickers to make it a little more fun, and give everyone a different color of pen so you can easily tell who has what commitments on which days.

A daily planner can keep more careful track of commitments, so it’s best if your children have a lot of things on the go. You can carry it with you to remind you where to be next, and your children can carry one to school and back to remind themselves of homework assignments, test dates, etc.

In the end, you’ll have to work out your own system, but starting the school year with any system is better than none at all.

5. How can I make sure everyone’s eating healthily with all this stress and rush?

Planning meals out once a week makes a huge difference in the quality of food and life everyone enjoys. Set aside just half an hour or an hour each week (this could be a weekday or weekend, whatever’s most convenient for you) to plan meals for the upcoming week. Get out the recipes and keep them nearby, check what ingredients you need but don’t have, and consult the flyers to see what’s on sale so you can save money at the same time.

In between meals can be the downfall of many families, so keep healthy snacks around for kids to grab on the go, including fruit, nuts, and low-sugar foods.

6. What can I do to help my kids remember that summer’s really over?

If you’re trying to prepare your kids for school and it just isn’t working, plan one last “end of summer” bash or event. This can be a camping trip, a picnic, a party, or whatever else you feel is appropriate. Make it an annual tradition and it will make this task much easier every year, while helping kids look forward to the school year, too.

The back-to-school routine is frenetic for just about everyone, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have it together quite yet. Once more, as it does every year, your role shifts from full-time caregiver to part-time. This will leave you with more free time, but also more responsibilities in many ways – packing lunches, helping with homework, and making trips to sports camps, for example.

Don’t let yourself get too wound-up about all the stress and anxiety of the back-to-school routine. You will be much more calming for your child if you just try to relax and enjoy the ride!