How to Support a Child Whose Parent is Incarcerated

Having a child suffer because there parent is incarcerated is perhaps one of the most flawed consequences of our criminal justice system. Here are some strategies that might help.

According to the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated, there are an estimated 2.7 million children in the United States with a parent who is currently incarcerated, which represents about 1 in every 28 children. Here are some additional statistics related to children with incarcerated parents:

  1. Children with incarcerated parents are more likely to experience poverty and housing instability than their peers.
  2. Children with incarcerated parents are more likely to experience mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  3. Children with incarcerated parents are more likely to experience academic difficulties, including low grades, absenteeism, and dropping out of school.
  4. Children with incarcerated parents are more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system themselves.
  5. The majority of children with incarcerated parents are children of color, with African American and Hispanic children being disproportionately represented.

It is important to recognize the unique challenges and needs of children with incarcerated parents and to provide them with the support and resources they need to thrive.

Here are some ways you can support a child whose parent is incarcerated:

  1. Be honest and open: It is important to be honest with the child about their parent’s situation. Answer their questions truthfully, in an age-appropriate manner, and avoid hiding the truth from them.
  2. Provide emotional support: Let the child know that they are loved and supported, and that they are not to blame for their parent’s incarceration. Encourage them to express their feelings and provide a safe and supportive space for them to do so.
  3. Maintain regular communication: Help the child stay connected with their incarcerated parent through regular phone calls, letters, or visits if possible. This can help the child feel less isolated and maintain a sense of connection with their parent.
  4. Connect with support services: Seek out resources and support services in your community that can help the child cope with the impact of parental incarceration. This can include counseling, support groups, and mentoring programs.
  5. Advocate for the child: Work with schools, social services, and other agencies to ensure that the child’s needs are being met and that they have access to the resources they need to thrive.
  6. Maintain routines and structure: Children benefit from structure and routine, so try to maintain regular schedules for meals, sleep, and activities.

Remember that supporting a child whose parent is incarcerated can be challenging, but with the right resources and support, children can thrive and grow into resilient adults. If you need help supporting a child with an incarcerated parent, help is available today.

Contact one of our therapists now.