Preparing a child for contact time with family

How to support a child and help them get ready for a positive experience when spending contact time with family.

Contact time with family allows a child in kinship care to maintain a connection and build relationships with their family, usually their parents. It can also be a difficult time for children, but with the right support it can be a positive experience with many benefits.

What is contact time with family?

Managing contact time with family

Clear contact arrangements

Children always find life easier when things are clear. It’s important that you take time to agree and understand your contact arrangements, so that you can explain them to the child you care for. Always try and keep them informed as much as you can.

If you are a kinship carer with a child arrangements order or special guardianship order, you may have a support plan from children’s services that states exactly how contact should work. If you have a more informal kinship care arrangement, it is more likely you will need to agree and arrange how contact time will work with other family members.

Speak to the child you care for often about contact time and let them know when it will be and what they can expect. If you think it’s appropriate, you may want to write the arrangements down or keep a shared paper or digital calendar with the child.

Understand the child’s needs

Every child has different needs that will depend on a range of factors, including their age. That means each child will respond in their own way to contact time with family, so it can sometimes be a difficult process at first.

Common issues kinship carers share with us include younger children becoming clingy or wetting the bed for a few days after contact. For older children, it may cause them to become moody and feel angry or sad. Contact time with family can be emotional and stir feelings that they will need to work through.

As a kinship carer, do your best to listen to the child you care for, watch how they react to situations and understand what they need. The better you know them and how they cope, the easier it will be to make decisions that benefit them and their relationships.

Reassure and provide space

One of the most helpful things you can do for the child you care for is listen to what they say and allow them to share their feelings. It’s normal for them to feel worried or unsure about contact time with family, but reassuring them can make it a lot easier.

While many children benefit from contact time, for others it can be more difficult and raise issues that are upsetting and hard to process. Tell them that you are there to support them and give them the space to work through their feelings when they need it.

Once those feelings calm down, you may be able to help them understand why they are not in their parents’ care. You can explain the situation and that you know it is hard for them. Just having you there to talk things through can make a big difference.

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer-support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.