One out of every fifty American children has an incarcerated parents. That’s approximately 2.7 million children. Each of those children is an individual who is worthy of support from teachers, caregivers, and other relatives.
Supporting children with incarcerated parents is not difficult, and you don’t need a fancy degree to do it. Support begins and ends with radical empathy. Do you have what it takes to be a champion for a child dealing with this transition?
As it turns out, these children need your support. How does having an incarcerated parent affect a child? These young people may struggle with trauma, have system involvement, or experience difficulty in school.
We’ve created this list to teach you five simple ways that you can support incarcerated parents and their children. Keep reading to learn how you can make a difference in the life of a struggling child.
1. Introduce Them to Appropriate Media
The majority of children’s books and media depict static-looking nuclear families. This means that many children don’t get to see themselves or their stories in books or on television. You can change this by introducing the children of incarcerated parents to media that depicts their situation.
Sesame Workshop has produced a wonderful resource for these children. They have curated books, videos, and other resources that help normalize parent incarceration. These can help children better understand their situation and feel less alone.
2. Help Them Find Mentors
The absence of a parental figure can mean that children miss out on life lessons and mentorship. They may not have someone to go to with questions about puberty, self-care, or mental health. Help these children to find trusted mentors in the community, or become that person yourself.
3. Arrange a Visit
Children must understand that their parent is not “bad person” because they are in prison. Caregivers should make every effort to help children maintain a relationship with their parents in prison. This begins by arranging regular visits and developing a communication routine.
Making a visit doesn’t need to be stressful. Help children embrace it as a joyful opportunity to connect with someone they love.
4. Pursue Counseling or Therapy
Parental incarceration is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). This means that these children are more susceptible to trauma and mental illness. You can avoid long-term consequences by helping a child find a counsellor or therapist before they need one.
5. Talk About It
Researchers describe a phenomenon called “the conspiracy of silence.” This is when caregivers fail to explain where an incarcerated parent has gone. Additionally, they may encourage children to keep their parent’s incarceration a secret themselves.
This can quickly become a major source of stress for children. It can even lead to deep shame. Talking about the situation openly can help mitigate these feelings and their consequences.
Supporting Children of Incarcerated Parents
You don’t need to be a superhero to become a hero to a child. The children of incarcerated parents have some special needs, but they are worthy of extra care and support. Caregivers can go the extra mile to ensure that these vulnerable children are healthy and happy when their parent returns home.
Are you looking for other ways to make a difference in the world around you? Check out the rest of the blog for more inspiration!