But an annual family tradition can soothe everyone's nerves by making the big day feel more familiar and predictable year in and year out. Here are some rituals that may work for you and your family - but, of course, feel free to invent your own.
Bring doughnuts and juices to the bus stop for the kids to snack on. Wrap something for the bus driver and the teacher, too. And don't forget napkins!
Pack a note with your child's lunch, telling him how proud you are of him. If your child is older, pack a comic strip from the Sunday paper or a joke he can share with his friends.
In the same spot every year, take a picture of your child (or children) wearing that first-day-of-school outfit. Store the photographs in a special album so you can look back on how your kids have grown over the years.
Make a welcome-home treat. Your child might be too nervous for a special breakfast on the first day, but she'll love coming home to her favorite snack, which she can eat while she tells you all about her day.
Take your child shopping for school supplies before the big day. Nothing makes a child feel more prepared for and excited about starting school than a fresh batch of pencils, new folders and binders.
Visit the school the day before classes start. You'll have a chance to walk around the classroom without dozens of children racing around, and you'll probably be able to talk with teachers for a few minutes.
Host a back-to-school sleepover at the end of the summer for your child's friends, or for just all your children. In the spirit of the season, host it outside. Set up a screened-in tent and let the kids camp out in the backyard. Munch on snacks and talk about what the upcoming school year will be like as you bid adieu to summer.
Invite some children in your child's class over before school starts (if you can get a list of classmates from the school). Include some of his friends and someone who's new to the area. Not only will your child see some familiar faces on the first day, but she'll also have a sense of purpose as she helps the new kid get adjusted.