One of the hardest things for an inmate to deal with is being removed from his or her children. Not being there for daily routines means missing out on much of the child’s development and preparation for life. These easy steps will keep your inmate connected and active in the lives of the children.
Assign one day a week when your inmate will talk to each child on the phone. Encourage the children to write down things during the week that they want to discuss with their incarcerated parent, like advice they are seeking or simply things they want to vent about. Maybe there’s a joke or a story they find that they’d like to share.
Have a weekly family writing session. Put pens and paper on the table, pop some popcorn and have everybody write letters to the incarcerated parent. Be sure to give them stamped envelopes so they can secure their letters in private, ensuring nobody reads them before they go in the mail. Remember, most jails and prisons don’t allow stickers, colored pens, or otherwise altered letters. Keep them simple.
Take photos of everyday events. If the inmate’s son gets a haircut, snap it. Don’t forget to take the camera to the dentist or for a sporting event, and remember to take plenty of photos during the school’s open house. As long as you are snapping photos of the routine things the kids are doing, your inmate will continue to feel connected to that part of their lives. Check with the jail to be sure you can send photos. If not, find out if you are allowed to show the inmate photos during your visits.
Keep Notes Yourself
Write things down about events that happen during the week so you can share them with your inmate. If your son’s girlfriend breaks up with him, mention it ahead of time so the inmate can think of some advice to offer during that teen’s phone call. Writing things down that you want to discuss can keep the inmate informed about his or her kids.
Final thoughts: Parenting from jail or prison is more difficult but it can be done. You can help by encouraging the children to continue talking with their incarcerated parent and supporting that parent’s wishes when it comes to some of the decisions that must be made about their lives.