Back to School 2021

As the air buzzes with excitement and apprehension regarding back to school, the start of school on the horizon may feel like a journey into the unknown. One thing is for sure – there is a focus on a positive return to school experience for students, teachers, and parents. In Fairfax County, the plan is for our public school students to return to in-person learning five days a week. While some students may have attended in-person classes through last year’s hybrid scheduling, other students will be walking back through school doors for the first time in roughly a year and a half. Regardless of your student’s prior experience, here are some tips to get this year off to a great start.

Prioritize Schedules Now

Children thrive with structure. It helps them build confidence and lean into predictability, creating safe environments. Start practicing your child’s wake-up and ”get ready for school” routine now. It will save alarm clock headaches down the road and put your family on a path to a calm familiarity, even if circumstances create temporary chaos some mornings. Take this tip one step further by empowering your child to make decisions on their own. Get them involved in selecting their outfit for the day or what they’d like to see on the breakfast table.

Practice Masking

Mask wearing will be required for all students, teachers, staff, and visitors inside Fairfax County Public Schools. Help set a good example for your children by starting to mask despite your vaccination status. Children learn most from their caregivers and mimic what they see, so lead by example and give them something good to copy. Reiterate the importance of how masks keep us and those around us safe. Make masking fun by allowing your child to pick out a few new masks that show off their personality during back-to-school shopping. 

Celebrate Connection

Encourage your child to start building new relationships and developing old ones. Check in with them regarding old friends and ask them about new kids they meet in class. Ask what they like best about their teacher or who their favorite teacher is and why. As a caregiver, make sure to take advantage of back-to-school nights and/or orientations to learn about how your child can engage in activities they enjoy and start to build their own support network.

Prioritize Mental Health

This transition is going to be tough on some students as it marks a major change in their daily lives. Reassure your child that they can express any emotion around back-to-school. Anxiety, excitement, stress, sadness, and any other feelings deserve recognition and validation. Prepare ahead of time for any unexpected challenge by making sure you know who at school can best support your student, including teachers, school social workers, and administration staff. Another great way to generate positivity and confidence for your child is to emphasize how proud you are of them for their growth and perseverance over the past year.

Ask for Help

Encourage your student to seek help when they need it. Make sure they’re comfortable going to their teachers or counselors for assistance. Reiterate that these adults are there to make school safe and fun for them. And do not forget yourself! Just like flying on an airplane, adult caregivers need to make sure their metaphorical air mask is on first to be able to help the children in their lives. Reaffirm the support systems you have around yourself and your family to be there during this major transition. A strong family will make a strong student and create a happy and healthy school year for everyone!