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Helping Children Cope with Jailed Parent
February 18, 2013 at 12:44 AM

My children's father will begin a 6 month jail sentence on March 1st for nonpayment of child support. My daughter is more aware of the situation than her brother; she is almost 9, and he turns 6 in a few months. Her guidance counselor has been bringing up themes in Banana Splits (consequences for parents who don't 'do the right thing') which have helped  her to ask some questions. She asked me a few nights ago if her Dad was going to jail for not helping take care of them, and I had to tell her the truth.

She doesn't seem upset about it; in fact, she seems somewhat relieved.

They will be going to their Dad's again on Friday, and it may be the last time they seem him before he goes. I don't really know if I should tell my son before that visit or after. Their dad will not discuss this with me in any capacity, so making a joint effort in helping them to understand just isn't going to happen.

I'm doubtlessly afraid of many things for my future, but for right now I just would really like to hear from any parent who's experienced something like this or anyone in a field which may help (therapist, judge, attorney, counselor, etc).

Thank you so much,



  • TiredMommy6906
    February 18, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    I would tell your son before, so that your son has the opportunity to ask his father questions if he wants. I wouldn't give him any details, just that his dad is going to jail, which is kinda like a time out for grown ups. I would definitely give your ex the opportunity to explain himself.

    Good luck!

  • wildmntnhoney
    February 18, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    The problem with that is that their Dad isn't someone they feel comfortable being open with. He is unpredictable with his moods and emotions. This is so complex!

  • hargonagain
    February 18, 2013 at 2:49 AM

    My son's bio father spent most of his first 3 years  prison.  When he asks about his dad I tell him his dad did bad stuff and has to go to time out.  I work at a prison and my son has been to work with me, so he somewhat understands what jail is.  I adopted him at birth and his dad happened to be locked up in the place I worked at.

  • LifeCafe42
    February 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Bump I would talk to the school and see if they have a counselor that your children can start seeing to help with questions and feelings

  • Robsessed98
    February 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM
    Idk if he can fully understand the concept of time at his age, but he is old enough to know what jail is. It's his dads job to tell him, but odds are he won't, so I think you should outline it for him so he will question his dad.
  • easinpc
    by easinpc
    February 18, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    I"m not sure how I'd handle that situation but i would definately make sure to be there if they want to talk and answer their questions at an age appropriate level.  Hugs & good luck!!

  • wildmntnhoney
    February 18, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Thanks all.

    They have a relationship with the guidance counselor; both go to Banana Splits and have ind. counseling. I wound up telling them today. My daughter wound up feeling literally sick with sadness, and my son had some really practical questions (Will Dad be handcuffed? What do people do in jail?).

    They seem calmer this evening. We took advantage of this cold day off of school to just hunker down and be together. They understand that their Dad is not responsible; they've known this for years without me telling them a word. Kids are perceptive, and so this is not altogether a surprise.

    I emailed teachers and counselor. I also emailed their Dad and his parents, reiterating how important it is for us to all be a wide net of support for them. It's unlikely that they'll respond, but I know I've done my best.

    They know that they'll be fine with me. They're relieved; they don't love going to their Dad's. So while this is scary and big, it's also the beginning of an era of peace in our lives.

  • brieri
    by brieri
    February 18, 2013 at 6:53 PM

     It is not your responsibility about the situation their dad is in. Let him decide to make the decision if he is no longer going to see them.  or he is going to jail.  (they can visit him in jail, if they choose so).

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