When mom or dad is incarcerated, kids face a whole host of emotions. Dealing with a parent’s incarceration is never easy, no matter how old a child is – but if kids you love are going through this difficult situation, what can you do to help alleviate their stress and cope with the situation?
How to Help Kids With an Incarcerated Parent
Whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent or anyone else who loves kids with an incarcerated parent, there are a number of things you can do to help ease their suffering.
The best thing you can do? Be available. Whether the kids want to talk, spend quality time with an adult role model or simply be with others, being available is one of the best ways to help children cope with the tumultuous feelings they’re experiencing.
One teen whose dad was incarcerated when she was just seven has a heartbreaking story – and it’s one that could’ve been changed if someone had only been there.
“I didn’t get any help from anybody during all of the years that my dad was in prison. No one ever asked me how I was doing,” says Eunique, a high school student in California. “I didn’t have a mom and if you don’t have a second parent, it’s really hard. When my dad was incarcerated, I didn’t have anybody at school events and that hurt… It would have been nice just to have a conversation with a school counselor,” she says.
Small Children With Incarcerated Parents: Where to Turn for Help
If you’re dealing with small children, Sesame Street has a number of helpful (and free) resources you can use, including storybooks, videos and more.
Youth.gov also has a number of resources you can use to help children with incarcerated parents.
Teens With Incarcerated Parents: Where to Turn for Help
There are a number of books that you and the teen you love may benefit from, and many of them are available from Rutgers University’s Children of Incarcerated Parents Library.
Teens often benefit from reading books about those in similar situations, as well; some books that may help teens cope include:
- An Inmate’s Daughter by Jan Walker
- Queenie Peavy by Robert Burch
- The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Paterson
- Tyrell by Coe Booth
There are also several organizations that connect children of incarcerated parents with a mentor – and the nationwide, faith-based Amachi program may be helpful to the teens you care about.
While nothing can erase the pain and struggles that children of incarcerated parents must face, you can be there for them – and that can make a huge difference.