Jennifer, co-ordinator at Support & Supervised Family Contact Centre, Spalding particularly specialises in supervised contact sessions for families that are going through court proceedings both within public and private law. She told us how they use creative activities to alleviate anxiety and help families to re-bond:

“Our contact sessions are focused on creative activities (in particular arts and crafts) to minimise the stress and pressure on both parents and the children particularly where contact has been ordered by the court and our centre is not their normal environment to spend time together. We are seeing parents grow in confidence – giving their child/ren as much focused interaction and quality time as possible for the brief period they have together which tends to be once a week. They are supported and guided by our experienced staff who not only have a background in social care but also have experience, skills and knowledge in child development – drawing on and combining them both.”

“We have found that a play-centred approach and setting is beneficial. Understandably most parents who come for their first contact are nervous and unsure as to how they should respond to their child/ren whilst being watched by a supervisor. We know from our own experience and other studies that art and creative interactions help to minimise the impact that anxiety might be having on family members.”

“At the pre-visit stage we explain in a child friendly way firstly why they are coming to a contact centre. We then give them an insight into what we have available and for them in turn to advise us what sort of activities and play they are interested in. When starting the first contact session, we see the children feel more comfortable and will often show and tell the parent they are having contact with what they had played with on their pre-visit. They are already able to confidently navigate their way around the room and show the parent/s who they are having contact with what there is to do. We also give the parent/s the opportunity to hear their ideas and what sort of activities they and their children normally like to do together and encourage them to bring in any activities or toys the child/ren like or is familiar with.”

“Sometimes a parent may struggle to reconnect with their child/ren especially if they have been apart for an extended period. They may be unsure of what their children are into and like to do which means at times this can seem like a barrier. We actively encourage and have had positive outcomes for parents and their children by using play and activities as a way of strengthening and rebuilding positive relationships.”

“Child/ren can speak freely and verbalise their concerns, feelings and ask questions that they might have in a safe setting. This has often been observed when engrossed in their play or an activity. We feel that the child’s voice is paramount, and we encourage the parent/s to listen and allow them to express themselves as they wish. Supervisors are there to support and help parents respond and explain in a child friendly way. We also supply a range of links to various other agencies and videos to help both parents and children understand what is happening, the process of the court, legal teams and other professionals.”

“We believe in a calm and interactive way of supervising contacts. Our staff are friendly and non-judgemental, explaining to both the resident and non-resident parent that the contact is centred around their child /ren so that they can maintain a positive relationship within a safe and playful setting whilst legal proceedings are ongoing, whether that be in private or public family law.”

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