Assisting Families of Inmates (http://www.afoi.org), a terrific Virginia-based organization that supports families of inmates, provides a very informative information sheet on their website regarding how to prepare a child to visit a parent in prison. It is highly recommended that you heed the advice in this document.
The document titled "Preparing a Child" reads as follows:
"For Incarcerated Parent and Caregiver to do Before the First Visit:
~Inform the child specifically as to when he/she will be seeing the parent.
~Give the child a day, date, and time that he/she will visit.
~Indicate how long the visit will be, approximately 1-2 hours on average.
~Use good judgment as to how far in advance of the visit you inform the child. As a general rule, the younger the child, the closer to the visiting date you would want to tell the child. Younger children have a difficult time putting several days of a week into perspective, so you might want to inform them a day or two before the scheduled visit. Older children usually need more preparatory time.
~If the child and parent have had a long separation, it helps for the parent to write the child a letter saying simply that they have missed the child and are looking forward to seeing him. In the letter, describe what you will do together during the visit, what you will be wearing, any changes in your appearance (weight, hairstyle, or anything your child might notice). Describe the physical environment of the prison and visitation room (the color of the walls, arrangement of tables and chairs, other people, the guards, etc.).
~Both the parent and the caregiver should give the child as much information as possible about what to expect on the day of the visit."
All of these are certainly good ideas and should be heeded. After all, this is what AFOI does: Connecting families on the outside with those on the inside.
Assisting Families of Inmates can be contacted as follows:
1 North 5th Street, Suite 400
Richmond, VA 23219
Do note that AFOI provides very economical visitation services to prisons in Virginia. If you would like to utilize their visitation service, all you have to do is call or email. Costs associated with this service are $6 per adult and $1 per child with a maximum rate of $8 per adult with two or more children.