Visiting a prison is hard all year long. It just becomes especially hard during the holidays. This is the time we long to be together as a family. Everywhere we look, we see families together laughing, spending time together, and spending money. All of those three things are a struggle for families when Dad is in prison – time, happiness, and money seem to be in short supply. Planning holiday visits can be a chore but can be the most rewarding thing you do for your family.
As we plan our visits during the Christmas and New Year season, it can be a painful reminder that we won’t get to be together on Christmas or to bring in the New Year together. To make the days less difficult and our time together more joyful, a little planning is needed.
Planning your visit
Planning for the actual trip to and from the visit, as well as for the actual visit, will help turn these days into happy memories. Really, it will. Trust me. Make sure you clear the days you plan to go visit your husband and block those dates on the calendar. Try to get dates as close to the holiday as you can, so you can make this your own special celebration.
Decide what is OK and what is not OK to talk about or do during this visit and be sure to talk with your husband about it beforehand. If you decide you are not talking about bills, be sure you are both on the same page. Then, choose what you will wear. Find fun and festive outfits to wear to the visit. Pick your theme – fun, fancy, or festive – and have everyone dress according to the theme. Make sure you get a picture during your visit!
During your drive to the prison visit, plan to sing songs together (in my car, the more off-key the better 😊) and allow each person to plan one thing for the visit that day to make it special. The “one thing” can be the food from the vending machines, a game you will all play, a book or story you will share together, making a craft out of the napkins, or anything their imaginations can come up with!
You will need paper and pencils in the car for your kids to brainstorm their special visit activity, a radio station that you can sing along to, or a CD you can play. This is such a simple way to make holiday visits festive and fun.
During your visit, remember this is your time to celebrate together. As you get food from the vending machine, eat, and talk together, remember to focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. Have everyone announce what their special activity for the day is and then do them together (read my story on planning a dinner in a visiting room).
The Drive Home
The drive home will be hard. You will all feel the loss more deeply, so it’s important to have a plan for this part of the day as well. It could be a surprise for the children if you want to make it even more fun! Plan a drive through town to see the Christmas lights or a stop at McDonalds to get a hot chocolate together. Any activity out of the normal routine will bring a little extra joy right when it is needed most.
When you arrive back home, finish the evening with a Christmas movie and popcorn, or a fun family game.
Making the most of the time you do have together will help strengthen your family during this difficult season. I hope you have the most amazing visit ever! Know that I am praying that you will be infused with strength, courage, hope, and joy.
I am rooting for you!
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