With Father’s Day approaching, it can be a difficult time for the children of those in the Criminal Justice System. At Lincolnshire Action Trust, we provide support for those affected by this, however, there are also other ways in which you can make this time a little easier for those who may be missing their father at this time of year. As well as children missing their fathers, it can be a difficult time for the fathers who are separated from their families. Father’s Day can trigger various emotions for almost everyone, and it’s important to support those affected, at this time, and all year round.
It's the little things
“I won’t be able to take my dad for a beer.”
“It’s a shame I can’t pick my children up and swing them around.”
Not being able to do the things you used to do, or wish to do, with your dad on Father’s Day can be the hardest part of it all. Whether it’s longing for a beer in the pub with him, or something as simple as playing a game or going on a day out, both the children and prisoners alike will be missing what once was, or what could be. The first suggestion as to what you could do to connect with your dad on Father’s Day would be to visit him, and play a game, or talk about something you normally wouldn’t, so that Father’s Day feels extra special, and can be a memory to be cherished thereafter.
You could also write him a special letter, or card, or younger children can draw him a special picture to mark the day. If you can’t visit him in person, letters, cards and drawings can be sent via physical mail or email, which is another way to connect with dad at this time of year. Most prisons run family days where children can visit in more of a relaxed environment. Many prisons also have access to Storybook Dads, where parents in prison can record stories on a CD to send to their children.
“I came to prison when my daughter was one year old. I never thought I would come to prison, and I have missed everything with my daughter. I have watched her grow up in photos and through phone calls. The first time she said “daddy” was on the phone and I could not see her. When she was a baby, I thought I would be there to tuck her into bed every night and I have missed out on all her first milestones. I did not see her take her first steps or speak and will miss out on her starting school and miss out on important dates.”
“I feel bad that my family have to travel all this way to celebrate.”
Missing out on important milestones can be hard for everyone involved, and this is only highlighted on occasions such as Father’s Day. One way to navigate this would be to have family document as much as possible. Documenting precious memories on video to share upon release or printing photographs and writing or telling stories of big moments can really help the prisoner feel connected and a part of their children’s lives, as well as including the child as well.
Activities that keep the mind and hands busy are crucial for people in prison, regardless of the time of year, however, keeping busy over special occasions is extra important, in order to maintain good mental well-being. Activities in prison could involve watching TV, reading books, doing puzzles, playing board games, creating art, writing poetry or stories, exercising, studying and working a job inside the prison. Restrictions on what a prisoner can do and what they have access to will vary from prison to prison and are dependent on the prisoner and what they are allowed to do, but it is the worth the prisoner investigating and finding new things to keep busy. Keeping busy is also equally as important for those on the outside. Families will be missing their relative, so finding ways to ‘keep going’ in hard times can really help their well-being, too.
Understanding the circumstances
“I keep in touch with regular phone calls, but my daughter has autism and does not understand where I am. We have had some social visits, but the time travelled and seeing how upset my daughter gets [as she] does not understand why daddy cannot come home is very upsetting.”
Navigating having a family member in prison is hard enough, but when combined with other complex challenges, it can add another layer of difficulty. Broaching the subject with children who have additional needs can be overwhelming but sticking to the facts can make it easier for children to process. There are resources on our website that can offer advice and support for families and children.
If you would like to talk further about any of these issues, please contact our Family Engagement Team in the prison where your loved one is located.