Forget last year’s late-night homework sessions and missed bus rides—the start of a new school year is a great time to reevaluate family routines and set guidelines to help your child succeed.

This year, make going back to school about more than buying school supplies. Think ahead to help your family ride out the surprises the year is sure to bring, and follow these expert tips to start off right.

Lay the Groundwork

Going back to school doesn’t have to mean homework fights and bedtime protests. While some experts advise creating homework schedules or activity charts, parenting coach Erin Brown Conroy says the first step parents should take to minimize disputes is to communicate their expectations clearly. Talk about homework rules and daily routines before school starts. Then, enforce family rules consistently.

Even on the toughest of days, it’s important to keep a positive attitude. Instead of focusing on what children “have to do” for homework, emphasize what they “get to learn,” Brown Conroy says. If your child becomes overwhelmed by homework, help break down the work into easily accomplished tasks.

Brown Conroy, the author of 20 Secrets to Success With Your Child, also advises parents to think ahead to what difficult situations their children may encounter, such as making new friends, and to talk about ways to deal with these situations before they occur.

Ease Anxieties

Starting a new grade or moving to a new school can be frightening. Parents can ease these anxieties by helping students feel prepared for school. If your child walks or rides a bicycle to school, walk or ride the route with him. If your child rides the bus, show her where the bus stop is, tell her about the schedule, and make sure she knows how to find the bus after school. Remind your child where he will go after school, whether it’s home, to an extracurricular activity, or to a babysitter.

This is also a good time to talk about strategies for dealing with bullies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends telling children to look the bully in the eye, stay calm, and stand tall. Teach children to respond to bullying by saying, “I don’t like what you are doing,” “Please do not talk to me like that,” or “Why would you say that?” Tell your child to walk away from a bully, and teach her when and how to ask for help.

Meet School Staff

It’s best to make an appointment for you and your child to meet the principal, your child’s teachers, and even the school counselor before school starts, says John Wherry, president of the Parent Institute, a private company that encourages parent involvement at school. Alternatively, find out when the school will hold an organized teacher night and make plans to be there.

“Let your child see what the place is like instead of just riding a bike around the school all summer and not knowing what goes on behind those doors,” advises Wherry, a former teacher.

If your child has special needs, inform the teacher before classes start. Also let the teacher know of changes that may affect your child’s behavior, such as a divorce, an illness or death of a family member, or a recent or pending move. In addition, help the teacher connect with your child by mentioning his interests or hobbies, Wherry says.