Knowing how to keep the family together while one parent is in jail is very important. Building a close-knit bond within your family makes children feel safe and secure. When your family’s structure is strong, children will grow into well-rounded adults with solid values. Plus, children with close relationships with family members are more likely to develop positive relationships with other people. That’s precisely why parents spend so much time building their bond. But when one parent ends up in prison, that bond can easily be broken.
Fortunately, you can still keep the family together when one parent has been incarcerated. Here’s how:
1) Be honest about it
Children with incarcerated parents will wonder where their parent is. They may believe that they’ve been abandoned or that it’s their fault their parent is in prison. If you find yourself in this situation and you’re wondering what to tell your child, you must be honest. Don’t tell your children that their parent is on a trip or that they’re in the military. Remember, children are bright, and chances are, they will find out the truth on their own. Plus, it’s better to be upfront about it than to have your children learn the truth from other people.
You can tell them that their parent is in prison, but you don’t need to go into detail — it can be as simple as, “Dad made a bad decision”. If you have older children, be prepared to dive into the specifics. What’s important is that you reassure your children that it’s not their fault their mom or dad went away.
2) To keep the family together maintain open communication
Every family member’s emotions will be all over the place when a loved one is imprisoned. Some will feel frustrated, others will feel sad, and there’s a good chance that most of you will feel angry. Children, in particular, will have a hard time processing their emotions and probably bottle them up.
If your children show signs of being withdrawn, you need to show them that they can talk to you. You can validate their concerns by telling them you feel the same way. That way, they’ll be more open to discussing their feelings with you.
3) To keep the family together encourage children to visit their incarcerated parent.
Accept that your children may not want to see their parent in prison. They may be upset about the separation, or have fears about the prison itself (children can be very imaginative so they may have misconceptions about prison life from movies, cartoons, etc.).
However, visitations can benefit your children as it’s one of the best ways to show them that their parent is safe. It’s also an opportunity for the incarcerated parent to tell their children they’re not at fault. This can help your children heal from the trauma.
By visiting their incarcerated parent often, they’ll be able to maintain the bond they’ve built. This will also allow the incarcerated parent to have an active role in their children’s lives.
4) Keep the incarcerated parent in the loop.
Did your child get an A+ on a test? Did your son or daughter get into their dream college? Did you get promoted to manager? Unfortunately, if your partner is in prison, they won’t be around to celebrate these milestones with you, so be sure to tell them about it when you visit them. Sharing family ‘members’ achievements can help them feel more connected to you and your children.
Don’t stop at the positives — tell your partner about your children’s bad behavior, too. Incarcerated parents can be involved in disciplining their children from prison, even if it can be difficult. Your child won’t look forward to being scolded, but it can strengthen their bond with their incarcerated parent. If you discipline them alone, they might feel they only have one parent.
5) Write to the incarcerated family member and write some more.
Staying in touch with a loved one in jail can be complicated because jails have varying procedures for receiving mail. In addition, chances are that the mail won’t be delivered to your loved one immediately, as it will probably have to be inspected by prison employees.
But just because there may be a delay doesn’t mean you should stop writing to your loved one. Incarcerated relatives who don’t hear from home may feel that their loved ones don’t care anymore. Writing letters to your loved ones is also a great way to maintain your relationship, make them look forward to their release, and discourage them from reoffending.
6) To keep the family together while one parent is in jail create a routine
These things tend to happen suddenly — one day, they’re playing games with their dad, and the next, they’re watching him being taken away. Because of this, your children may struggle to cope with their parent’s absence. They will also feel overwhelmed and as if their lives have been turned upside down.
With that said, what your child needs right now is stability. Remember that children don’t do well with change, so it’s best to set a routine that’s as close to their life before their parent was imprisoned. For example, you could play board games before going to bed every night or go to the movies during the weekend. When everything around them changes, they must have a sense of normalcy.
To keep the family together while one parent is in jail seems impossible when a family member — particularly a parent — is in prison. There may be barriers to relationship-building, but with these tips, you can maintain close ties with your loved ones. That way, you can ensure your family feels complete despite the situation.