preparing a child
For Incarcerated Parent and Caregiver to do Before the First Visit:
- It is a good idea to make a visit to the facility on your own first. That will enable you to share with the child some of the things they can expect – what the facility looks like, the noises s/he will hear inside, the process to enter the facility – things you will only know after having been there yourself.
- 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.