Prison visits can be amazing.
Wait! I know, I know. Having to visit your man in prison is, well… it sucks. I am not saying it is amazing to have to go to a prison to see your husband. I AM saying, that since you don’t have a choice about where you see your husband, you can make those visits amazing. Yes, even though it is in a prison visiting room.
The amount of time you get to be together in person is so limited. You need to make the most of it if you are going to make it. You cannot let the environment determine the culture of your visits together. It you do, you will leave every visit frustrated, irritable, and empty.
When you set the tone for your own family, you will leave the visit feeling refreshed, filled with peace, and joyful. You will still feel sadness and loss because you cannot be together, But the joy that a good visit brings will carry you through the time between visits. Being apart becomes more bearable when the time you have together is spent connecting.
At first, Every visit was exhausting, overwhelming, and emotional.
In order to transform visits into family time, you will need to be intentional. If the only part of your day that you plan ahead is how much you will spend at the vending machine, the system will dictate your visit. However, planning out things you can do together during your visits can turn them into a special time to connect.
We have so many wonderful memories of being together during visits, but It didn’t start out that way. Our family started our journey into prison visiting rooms feeling so helpless and hopeless. We didn’t know we could create a positive experience together in that environment. For our family, every visit was difficult. Every visit was heavy with grief. Every visit was exhausting, overwhelming, and emotional. If you have had those kinds of visits you know how terrifying it can be to think about doing that for years!
The visits changed when we changed our perspective.
No longer did we see ourselves as powerless to build our family stronger. We discovered that the system could control the amount of time we had together, where we could be together, what we could eat, what we could wear, who could visit, when we could visit… I am remembering WHY I felt so powerless. That is a LOT of control. But there were things they could not control. So we decided we would be intentional about the things we could control.
What we talked about, how we talked with each other, whether we played a game or read a book together – all of those were things we had control over. It was within our power to set a culture around our own little visiting table that helped our family grow stronger. So we did. We set the culture for our family.
We decided to dedicate our time together as Family Time.
Now, the memories of our times together around those visiting room tables are mostly good memories. We shared so many important moments, laughs, and tears together. Those few hours bonded us together. Now that Ron is home, we find that is so hard to create the same intentional, dedicated time together. There are so many distractions out here! So we block the time, hide our phones and sit around a big table to connect with each other.
Prison visits were both wonderful and terrible moments in our lives. Wonderful because we got to be together, hold each other and talk to each other while we looked into each other’s eyes. Terrible for so many other reasons… prison was a part of our family’s story.
Choosing what to do for your next visit
If you are struggling with prison visits and watching your family grow apart, let me give you some tips on how to make your visits worth looking forward to.
First, you will have to make a decision to change the culture of the visit. Decide that you will not let that environment infect your family. Talk with your husband and choose 2 things that you will do differently to change the culture around your little table. It may be adding a game, having a funniest joke contest, sharing your high points of the week… get creative. Just be sure it is actually something you can do in the visit room.
Once you have made the decision, DO IT.
We all have great intentions, but we don’t always follow through. This is a BIG MUST. Don’t let a grumpy guard, flat tire, bills, or anything stop you from being focused on building your family during your visit. This is YOUR time together. Make the most of it in spite of the circumstances. Here are some ideas of how to actually do it:
- Get your kids onboard as your travel to the prison. Tell them about a game you want to play, or a special way you want to share the vending machine food. Build anticipation however you can.
- Smile, smile, smile. Smile when you greet your husband, smile at your children when they engage with you and their daddy, and smile when you say good-bye. You might cry in between these, or after the visit, but do your best to insert as many smiles as you can.
- Be sure you have your 2 new things to try planned out for each visit. They can be the same ones if your family really enjoys them, or you can change activities every visit. It is your family time, so pay attention to what is working for you guys and keep doing it.
- Find ways to include laughing together in every visit. Jokes, stories about family moments, silly games, recounting TV shows… whatever it takes to laugh together. Laughter decreases stress, increases enjoyment, and creates a shared experience bond.
- Don’t give up. If your family doesn’t like your first idea, keep trying until you find out what works for your family. Make it an adventure you are on together.
Changing your visits from the dreaded prison visit to time together as a family is a big part of helping your family overcome having dad in prison.
I am rooting for you!