Before the First Visit
(Adapted from the Assisting Families of Inmates organization serving Virginia families)
Prepare your child for their prison visit to help both you and them be more relaxed and comfortable in this unfamiliar situation. Nobody likes the unknown, especially a child since they have little to no control over the situation. Below are a few suggestions to help your visits be better.
- 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 their 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 visiting room (the color of the walls, arrangement of tables and chairs, other people, the correctional officers, 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.
Another highly valuable resource is “Visiting Mom or Dad: A Child’s Perspective” published by Rutgers University.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici on Freedigitalphoto.net