The last thing Celia wanted to do was make her son Ben go to supervised contacts. She did not want him to build a relationship with his dad in what she thought would be a sterile and fake environment.
On top of that, Celia was also anxious about being around her ex-partner. She knew it was crucial that Ben still had a relationship with him and wanted the experience to be the best it could be, for the sake of her son.
Anxious about bumping into his dad
"Ben's dad was an addict when we separated. I tried everything to find a way for him to see his dad safely. We tried doing drop-offs at his friend's house. But then there were a few incidents with him turning up high and a mess. I didn't want Ben to see that," explains Celia.
Things were not going to plan; they ended up in court. Ben' s dad was given a non-molestation order and told he could only have supervised contact with his son for two hours a month.
Still wanted him to have a relationship with his dad
By this point, Celia was struggling.
"I was incredibly anxious; I didn't want to see Ben's dad at all. I didn't want to bump into him; I didn't want to be in confrontation with him. I would panic 'what if they let him go too soon'. Eventually, that started to subside as I trusted [the team at Jigsaw] more."
The team worked hard, to make sure that Celia and Ben’s dad didn't meet during sessions.
"There was an arrangement in place that we would arrive 15 minutes before his dad, and we would wait in a separate room."
Building trust and making parents feel safe
Slowly she began to trust the Jigsaw team, and her anxiety subsided. Celia has been dropping Ben off at the contact centre for over two years now.
“[The Jigsaw team] are quite good a gauging the personalities of the parents too. It’s key. As much as they need to be child-focused, they also need to get to grips and understand parents' anxieties. They do that so well. Elvidina does this so naturally, she understands the type of person his dad is. She gets it without anything needed to be said."
The Jigsaw team works hard to build a sense of trust with both parents. Celia says the contact notes have helped her.
"The child senses a lack of trust. The child can sense the parent is anxious; it reverberates through the child.
Always listening to parents' concerns
“I always get the contact notes from the sessions. Those are the things that really help me. You know what, if I am not happy about a something and I say ' I feel silly' and Elvedina says 'No, nothing sounds silly, what is the problem?'
"One day, his dad had said 'You can come to my house one day.' He hadn't promised anything, and I know it sounded like such a little thing to anyone else. But I knew Ben might see it as a promise. It would mean everything to him. Talking to Elvedina, we were able to talk about this and nip it in the bud."
"I felt comfortable, I was surprised. It is something I never wanted to go through."
So how different is the Jigsaw experience to what she expected contact to be?
“I felt comfortable. I was surprised. It is something I never wanted to go through. To me, a contact centre is not a natural environment. That's why I tried so many different ways. Of course, it's not ideal, but it is a brilliant service, especially in terms of the way the staff are. It’s got a kindness, friendliness and niceness I wasn't expecting. They make such a fuss of Ben, they know him well. When we go in all the staff are like 'Hey, how you doing?' They make the contact centre part feel subtle. Of course, it is not perfect - there’s always room for improvement,” she says with a smile, “But it's better than I imagined."
What would she say to another parent worrying about contact sessions for their children?
"It has its challenges, and you have to cross these anyway and do the best you can. As difficult as it is for me on a personal level. I would much rather Ben had a relationship with his father, and the contact centre makes that possible."
The next hurdle she sees approaching is when her son starts asking questions about why he has to see his dad in the centre.
"They make the contact centre part feel subtle."
"I'm surprised so far he has never questioned it. He's just like 'Are we going to visit dad?' I sometimes feel like he hasn't asked yet because he senses he doesn't want to know the answer. But soon I will have to talk to his dad about how he wants to deal with this.”
If you would like to find out more about our Jigsaw Service and how we could support your family, please contact us on 020 8835 9570