Parenting from prison is challenging, but there are ways to stay connected and involved in your child’s life. Here are some suggestions:

Write letters. Sending letters to your child is a great way to stay in touch with them and let them know you are thinking of them. Unlike texts or emails, old fashioned letters can be carried around and treasured. Encourage your child to write back and share their thoughts and feelings with you. Even if your child is not writing back, keep writing!

Make phone calls. You will have the ability to talk with your child on the phone. Use this time! Call them regularly, show them that you care through constant, steady contact. Be interested in their lives, ask about school, their interests, special events, their feelings. Crack jokes, laugh together, share stories from your childhood, ask lots of questions, be as present as you can be.

Send pictures and drawings. Send photos of yourself or drawings you create to your child, something they can hang up in their room when they feel lonely for you.

Participate as in family activities. Whether by phone or a video visit or sending a card, participate as much as you can in the events that are special in your child’s life. Many institutions are moving to providing the ability to video visit with your family, allowing you to be present in a way that was never before possible from prison. Take advantage of these resources to be a presence for important moments.

Stay involved in their education. Ask them questions about the things they are learning, talk to them about their grades. Stay in touch with another adult in your child’s life so that you can stay on top of how your child is doing in school and so you can ask about important tests or celebrate a good report card together.

Encourage regular visits. If you have a supportive person on the outside to help, encourage them to bring your child to visit you. Don’t worry if your child seems nervous or shy, the experience may be a little overwhelming, but regular visits where you can look at and hug one another will be very helpful in keeping your connection strong.

Support your child’s caregiver. It’s wonderful if you have a loving partner on the outside who is taking care of your child, but that’s not always the case. And even when it is, your partner may be exhausted and overwhelmed with single parenting. Be as supportive as you can to the caretaker of your child. Understand that they may be experiencing a great deal of stress – they may be working different hours, may have had to move, and make sacrifices for your incarceration. They may struggle with feelings of hurt and resentment. Encourage supportive and calm communication and don’t take it personally if they’re having a bad day. And if you do have an argument, try to resolve it as soon as possible so that it doesn’t affect your relationship with your child.

Take parenting classes. Many prisons offer parenting classes that specifically address the challenges of parenting from prison.