News and Media News stories Keeping in Touch with the Children Written by Sara Birch, Caseworker It is not always easy to decide whether or not to let a child know about the imprisonment of their parent, or another family member, such as a brother or sister. Some families prefer not to tell them, fearing that the news would be too upsetting. Other families believe that “honesty is the best policy” because children might blame themselves unless they are told the truth. Prisoners Abroad has a factsheet discussing this issue that can be requested by prisoners and their families and can also be directed to other resources which can help them decide on the best way in their individual case to deal with telling the children. Being held overseas can be particularly difficult for those with children, who might find the separation very hard. Regular visits with children and other family or friends may not always be possible for a variety of reasons - because of the costs involved, language barriers, prisoner regulations or a prisoner’s family’s work commitments for example. Prisoners Abroad, can and does, assist family members in planning visits with their children, and occasionally can assist with small grants from our Travel Fund. However, regular contact by other means can help maintain a bond between parents and children who have been separated due to imprisonment. Keeping in touch Prisoners Abroad has produced a booklet called Keeping in Touch with the Children and a range of activities for prisoners and their children. These materials and activities aim to provide those separated from their children with some ideas about keeping in touch so their child can grow and develop safe in the knowledge that they are loved and cared for by them. These materials are aimed at people whose children are aware of their imprisonment and would like to stay in touch. All prisoners supported by Prisoners Abroad who have children can request this activity pack and booklet at any point during their imprisonment. Cards and letters: Service users can request Freepost envelopes so that they can write to their children via our office as often as they like - there is no limit on the number of envelopes that we are prepared to send our service users. Service users are encouraged to write to their children whatever their age as any pictures, cards, stories or short letters can be shown and read out to them by their caregiver at home. Prisoners Abroad has a range of greetings cards for parents in prison overseas to send to their children. We have a number of designs such as “Happy Birthday”, "I love you to the moon and back” or “You can do it!” which service users can request. Activities: Suggesting activities that their child can do is a great way for our service users to stay in touch. Thanks to the Canadian Families and Corrections Network, Prisoners Abroad has been able to adapt a range of activity worksheets for parents and children to complete together and send via the post. These include writing activities, games, arts and crafts and even recipes. Jokes and certificates: Prisoners Abroad has a list of groan-worthy jokes that can be included in letters to children and a range of certificates to send to children. Telling a child they have done something well helps them to achieve self-esteem and self-worth and enables the parent to feel involved in their child's day to day life. Over the years that I have worked at Prisoners Abroad and have forwarded many letters and drawings from parents to their children, I have seen some amazing artwork (one father created a hand-drawn comic on paper that we sent him for this young child!). Please let us know if you would like us to send any of these materials to your relative in prison by emailing [email protected] or calling 0808 172 0098.