Department of Family Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

TTY 711

12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035

Michael A. Becketts,

5 Tips to Prepare Your Children to Go Back to School During COVID-19

(Posted 2021 July)

It's common to experience a mixture of emotions about the start of a new school year under normal circumstances.

However, for many children, the ways that COVID impacted the last school year made it even more difficult to know what to expect.

Since March 2020, in-person school ended abruptly, schools shifted to a virtual platform, and hybrid schooling was impacted by COVID safety protocols. These were just the changes at school!

two children waiting to get on school busExperiencing so many changes in a short period of time can cause some uncertainty, but children are resilient. To nurture their inner strength, it's good for parents and guardians to start having conversations with their children now to help them have a positive outlook on going back to school.

Check out these helpful tips from the Department of Family Services’ Neighborhood Networks’ staff:

1. Prepare Children for What to Expect

five children sitting outside doing homeworkHelping children prepare for change is the first step in managing transitions. Talk openly with your children so they can make sense of the world. Addressing their questions and reducing any surprises will both be helpful in their transition back to school. Giving them as much advanced notice as possible about what to expect can help them feel safe and secure.

2. Establish Routines

This is always an important step in preparing to return to school. It is best not to wait until the last minute to start adjusting to new bedtimes and waking times. Heading back to school and getting into a new routine is a big change, especially after so many children spent the last school year learning remotely. Plan ahead for everyone’s benefit. For tips, check out our series on setting routines.

3. Ask About Their Feelings

adult and child side by side hugging and smilingSometimes it is hard for children to talk openly about their feelings. They may struggle to find the right words to describe what they are thinking or feeling. Help your children by asking some open-ended questions that will encourage them to share. Provide a space for them to have your full attention and be a good listener. Some questions you could ask include: 

  • What are you looking forward to when you go back to school?
  • What might be hard about going back to school?

Acknowledge their feelings without judging them. Don’t jump in to find solutions too quickly. Reassure them that their feelings are natural and understandable. Let your child know you are there for them.

4. Keep the Conversations Going

Once children have returned to school, continue the open conversations. Encourage them to share their feelings and tell you about how things are going at school. Start with some questions like: 

  • What was good about your day?
  • What was difficult about your day?
  • What went ok today?

It is also important to communicate with your child’s school and teachers about any concerns so they are aware and can support your child as well. 

5. Reassure Them

teacher presenting to five studentsSome children may be excited about returning to school, while others may have anxiety about going back. They may be worried about separating from their parents or caregivers, getting back to seeing their peers and not knowing how to reengage with friends they have not seen in a while, or having to sit in a classroom with other children. 

Help children remember things they liked about school, or what can be fun about school. Help them by reassuring them about the things in their lives that are staying the same, such as family dinner time, or an extracurricular activity they enjoy. This can bring comfort during times of transition.  

These tips are provided by Neighborhood Networks (NN), a voluntary prevention program that connects families with resources. NN staff supports families as they build on their strengths as parents and leaders in their community. Families are nominated to the program by selected preschool and elementary schools within Fairfax County. 

This posting is part of the Department of Family Services' Community Corner where you’ll find timely information about upcoming events, parenting and wellness tips, programs and services, and more! Share these helpful posts with your friends and family. Don't miss out on future postings! Sign up today!

For media inquiries, contact Department of Family Services' Public Information Officer Amy Carlini by email, office phone 703-324-7758 or mobile phone 571-355-6672.

Back to top

Fairfax Virtual Assistant