Visiting a centre to plan for child contact can be something that parents feel very nervous about. This is perfectly normal and to be expected. It is worth remembering that parents will still be going through the stages of loss and separation in terms of their relationship with the children’s other parent. It is also possible that they will have a range of feelings or emotions toward this person.
Parents will often have their own reasons for not wanting to use a contact centre and will often feel judged or under the microscope. It is also the case that resident parents might be worried about using a contact centre because they are concerned that domestic (or any other) abuse will continue to take place whilst at the centre.
Prior to visiting the centre, and depending on the specifics of a family the following might be helpful:
- Speaking with the centre co-ordinator by phone can often be reassuring. The parent will be able to make sense of what the meeting will be about and how the time will be used. Centres are very used to supporting people in this way and will not have a problem with providing reassurance.
- The centre may have a website, that parents might find helpful.
- The NACCC website has a range of information. This will be reassuring for parents visiting a centre for the first time and help them to prepare.
- The NACCC website also has resources for children. Our website has been specifically designed around the needs of children. We know that sometimes the people caring for children are not best placed to support those children to prepare for contact sessions. This is not a reflection on the parenting capacity of that person, or a judgement of their character. The reason that parents often find this difficult relates more to their own feelings and emotions following the end of the relationship and therefore their ability to share positive information with their children which will help them to become excited about contact. There is a wealth of information there that is accessible and designed to reassure children whilst also helping them to anticipate what the future might look like. Additionally, NACCC also has an app and a range of stories that parents could support their children to be able to access.
- The parents that have children living with them are often well placed to take meaningful steps to prepare children for face to face contact. How these look will vary from child to child and family to family, but typically it might include:
- It being ok or better still encouraged to talk about contact and the other parent at home. Making something “ok” goes much further than saying it. Children must genuinely feel it.
- Children should have a safe place to be able to ask questions about contact and where possible these should be answered as positively as possible.
- Children might be helped to remember positive memories relating to the other parent, so that they are able to remember better times.
- Children having access to photographs of the parent it is proposed that they will be sharing time with.
- Children should also be offered the opportunity to have a pre-visit at the centre so that they have information shared with them as a level they are able to make sense of.