time out

July 2, 2014

Telling the Kids You’re Going to Prison

When a parent goes to prison, it can be very difficult for the children involved. And for the person who’s been convicted of a crime, telling the kids can be even harder than dealing with the prison sentence.

Don’t Lie

Much of the time, it’s tempting to come up with a good lie – Daddy’s going away to work, or “Mommy’s away visiting friends.” The problem with this kind of approach is that it’s practically impossible to keep a prison sentence a secret, and you can bet that the kids are going to find out eventually. Whether they overhear a conversation, or their friends hear something and pass it on, there’s likely no way to keep it under wraps.

You don’t want your kids to know that you’ve lied to them. In fact, you don’t want to lie to your kids about anything, ever, because you can bet that as they grow, they’ll remember every single lie you ever told them, and you’ll lose their respect. Maybe that’s why you were thinking of lying in the first place? Because you figured you’d lose their respect?

Your kids need to be able to trust you in order to respect you. And that means that you tell them the truth. Have you ever given your kids a time out? That’s one way to explain prison in terms that they’ll understand – you did something without thinking of the consequences, and because of that you’re being punished in a way that’s very much like a time out. Depending on their age, you don’t have to go into a lot of detail, but if they have questions, you should be willing to answer them.

Explain That You’ll Write and They Can Visit

Your kids will probably want to know quite a bit about where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing once you get there. If you do not know the answer to their question, tell them that you don’t know. Make sure to let them know that you will write, call and email them regularly. If they know that they’ll be able to be in touch with you through letters and phone calls, they’ll feel better about the situation.

Many parents don’t want their kids to visit them and see them in prison. However, they’re probably going to feel a lot better if they can visit you. Remember, kids aren’t judgmental. They want to know that you’re safe, and seeing you is going to reinforce to them that you’re okay, and you’re still a part of their lives. It’s all right if they know that you’re not especially happy about being in prison, just so long as they know that you love them wherever you are, that you will be okay and that you will be coming home.

If you have a short sentence, you might want to give your child a calendar showing the start and the end date. They can mark off the days until you come home. If your sentence is longer, mark on a calendar when you plan to call, email, or write them.

It Will Be Okay

Reiterate to your kids that when people make mistakes, they have to be held accountable, and that means that you’re going to have to be away for a while. But you love them, and soon you’ll be together again.

Hilary Neiman





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