WHEN YOU FIRST reluctantly handed him over to his kindergarten teacher, your heart pounded as you wondered: Will he make friends? Should I remind the teacher about his peanut allergy and tell her that he’s left-handed? But years from now, when he strides across a garland-strung stage, graduation cap atop his much older, wiser head, you’ll wipe the sweat off your brow for the first time in 18 years. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief. And you may even tear up a little. After all, the fact that your child is standing there, diploma in hand, is largely because of you.

Research shows that when parents are actively involved in their children’s learning, kids will do better in school and will be more successful in life. But as every parent knows, raising a child is sometimes fraught with fear, moments of helplessness and occasionally downright panic. What are you supposed to do, for instance, when they fail a test, want their own credit card or start posting personal information on the Internet?

We spoke to teachers, administrators and psychology experts across the state who delivered the tips and guidance you need on topics from negotiating the school transfer system to applying for colleges—and yes, even having “the big talk” about dating and sex.

So as your child matures from “little Jimmy” into college-bound James, keep this step-by-step survival guide handy. Because you never know when you might find yourself facing a worst-case scenario. But don’t worry—if you do, we’ve got you covered.