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,
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.
February 18 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!
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.
February 18 at 6:21 PM
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.