When children experience the incarceration of a parent or loved one, they face special challenges. As a caregiver for a child in this situation, you face challenges too. We want you to know a few things:
- You’re not alone
- There are resources to help
- You play an extremely important role in your child’s life
The incarceration of a parent can be extremely stressful for children. Too much stress can be harmful for children’s healthy development. The good news is that there are many things you can do to help children thrive despite this stress.
1. Build an environment of healthy relationships.
Safe, stable nurturing relationships help protect children from the damaging impact of too much stress. Take time to be available to your child and show consistent love and support. This close, loving relationship with you, their parent or caregiver, will help your child feel safe and cared for even when other things in their world feel out of control. Helping them maintain a strong connection to their parent in jail or prison is also important in most cases. Letters, phone calls and face-to-face or video visits are lifelines for any child separated from a parent.
Adults need healthy relationships too. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your child is to maintain your own circle of friends, family and others who love and support you in your role.
2. Give your child tools for coping and healthy development.
Children need to talk about their emotions, especially when they’re feeling stressed or upset. Allowing them to talk freely with you about their feelings—happy and sad —will help them learn to handle strong emotions in healthy ways.
Supporting their learning and social development is also key. Sometimes when families deal with incarceration, children’s education suffers. Helping children develop basic literacy and learning
3. Take care of yourself.
Taking time for yourself and taking care of your own wellbeing is not selfish. It’s essential in order for you to be the best caregiver for your child.
This series will offer resources and ideas to help you care for yourself and support your child. Here are some books and resources to help.
Sesame Street: Coping With Incarceration Website
Sesame Street: Incarceration Apps