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Getting Your Kids Back into School Mode

End the summer dreaming and get your teens back into the academic zone with this sanity-saving advice.
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It never fails: The new school year gives moms, including myself, a huge adrenaline rush. I'm not just talking about that giddy they're-back-in-school-and-out-of-the-house feeling. It's the other rush, convincing you that this school year you'll handle the inevitable parenting crises with graceful calm.

And then, two weeks later, when a classmate's being mean to your child or she won't unglue herself from the computer until reaching level 45 of her favorite game, the ideals come crashing down. You're yelling at your kid and firing off e-mails to the school in ALL CAPS. But this go-round, I plan to have a realistically more rewarding year. Here's how you can too.

Hit the Reset Button

Getting everyone out of a vacation mind-set and focused on school is a tough job, but Mom has got to do it. We all mourn the passing of summer—which you can remind your kids of while laying down the law. Tell them: "I know it was so fun enjoying ice cream and family movies all the time, but now you've got to buckle down, be in bed on time, and make sure your chores get done." Pushing your crew back on schedule will require you to be the bad guy for a bit, but it's pretty much the only way to make sure the kids don't slack off on homework, oversleep and miss the school bus, or start letting the garbage pile up. Plus, sticking to these rules means raising children who can take care of themselves.

Many kids don't understand why school is important, so it's essential that you highlight school's relevance by helping your children create personal goals. Before the first class begins, craft a tangible connection between their interests and something at school. Ask them for two things they'd like to accomplish before next summer and how school can assist them in achieving those goals. Does your daughter want to learn how to program computers? Maybe it's time to join the robotics club. Is your son thinking about creating a mosaic? Perhaps he can be a set designer for a school play or submit artwork to an upcoming exhibit. Just having this conversation about your kids' passions is valuable because you'll gain insight into what they love doing and they'll start to make links between life in the classroom and life beyond it.

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