Find a quiet spot in your house and listen carefully. If you pay attention, you may be able to hear the collective groan of students across the country upset about having to return to school. The end of summer vacation can be a relief for parents. But for students, it often means the end of freedom, and the return to pencils, books and teachers giving dirty looks.

Naturally, the beginning of the school year can be tough for students as they try to get back into learning mode. It is also the most important time for parents to be involved.

First of all, for you parents out there, PTA, student/teacher conferences and the occasional note on the report card is not enough communication to have with your child’s teacher.  Make an effort to meet the teacher, get to know him or her a little bit, and establish that you want to be aware of how your child is doing in school. If your kid can’t concentrate, you want to know sooner rather than later. Same if he or she is disruptive, lagging behind or uncooperative. Parents should strive to be partners with teachers and ensure that everybody is looking out for the best interests of the student.

Another helpful thing to do with your student is set goals. Evaluate the last school year. How did your child do? Did he or she falter in any subjects? Is he or she behind in any way? Then take a look at the curriculum for the current school year. Describe your goals. What do you want your child to have learned at the end of the year? Where do you want him or her to have improved? Make sure you and your child have defined objectives and review them frequently.

It probably goes without saying, but be an active participant when your child is doing homework. First of all, set up a schedule. Make sure that a certain amount of time is set aside every night for homework. The time should be consistent from day to day, and your child should get used to using that time only for homework. Offer to review homework or help your child figure out problems he or she may have trouble with. If he or she doesn’t have enough homework to fill the time that is set aside, perhaps you could go over old lessons with him or her to brush up.   Homework is also a good way to get an indication of how well your child is doing. By being involved, you may see signs that your child needs extra help in certain areas.

Positive reinforcement is also necessary for any student. Help your child by periodically looking back at what he or she has learned. Measure benchmarks of achievement. If your child has improved at math, English, social studies, science or anything else, point this out. Oftentimes students will focus on what they’re not doing well rather than on how much they have achieved. Focusing their attention on their progress can help build confidence and a desire to persevere.

And, of course, proper health plays heavily into how well your child does in school. Make sure he or she gets enough sleep. Make sure he or she eats breakfast and will have a healthy lunch and dinner. And remember that it’s not all about work. Your child should have outlets for fun. Avoid video games, and encourage your child to get involved in a physical activity. After all, exercise is another component of healthy living, and it also may improve a child’s ability to pay attention.

These are just some tips to begin your school year right. Be involved. Be vigilant. And your child will have an advantage from the start.