Start off by discussing with your son what the change will mean for his day-to-day rhythms. Safety measures such as social distancing, mask wearing, and COVID-19 testing will have significantly altered how his classroom operates compared with the last time he was in school. Make sure he understands that increasing vaccinations and declining case rates in your state and much of the country have made returning to the classroom safe for students. But as part of this conversation, emphasize that these other measures are nevertheless still necessary.
The next step is trying to approximate the schedule of an in-person school day. Starting a week or two before your son returns to school, get him in the habit of waking up and going to sleep earlier. Because remote school typically starts later and there’s no commute to worry about, in-person school requires an earlier bedtime and wake-up. So if your son is waiting until the morning-of to get his work done, he should begin completing his homework the afternoon or evening before it’s due.
In addition, see if your son’s teacher can provide a schedule for in-person school so that you can help him acclimate to the new routine ahead of time. If, for example, your child has been watching recorded videos of classes instead of joining them live, he can shift his schedule to mirror that of his upcoming in-person classes. Posting his schedule prominently in his room can help him stay on track.
This schedule will not only help with time management; it will also allow your son to figure out what supplies he’ll need for each class. Many kids attending remote school have work spaces that have fallen into disarray, littered with piles of paper and broken pencils. Now is the perfect time for your son to do some spring cleaning: He can set up a system to organize the materials he’ll use in school, and ask his teachers whether he will need additional books or papers when he is back in the classroom.
Along with a new schedule, one of the biggest changes that will likely come with attending school in person is more in-person socializing. If you haven’t been doing so already, see if you can work in time for your child to meet with a friend or two outside so they can get accustomed to seeing one another in person. When possible, encourage him to hang out with new friends too, and perhaps try an activity he has never done before.
Like you, your son is probably feeling a combination of excitement and dread about his return to school. After all, he’s just spent nearly 10 percent of his life learning remotely. Acknowledging those emotions is the most important part of preparing your son to reenter the classroom. Ask open-ended questions that allow him to talk through the discombobulation, sadness, and isolation he may be feeling. Whether or not your son wants to open up, checking in regularly will help him feel supported both now and moving forward.