3 Tips for Explaining a Parent’s Arrest to Children

According to a 2016 survey, approximately 684,500 inmates had at least one underage child, amounting to 58% and 47% of federal and state prisoners respectively. If your partner has recently been arrested, one of the first steps you take is probably going to be obtaining money for bail, either from a Montgomery County bail bonds office, a bank or another source. Your next may be to contact a lawyer. If you have children, you have an extra step: You have to explain the arrest to them. This can be a difficult process. Here are three tips for handling it.

1. Be Patient

There are a lot of questions headed your way, many of them hard to answer. Children naturally have a lot of queries, and a situation like this will only cause more to pop up. It is important for you to patiently listen to their concerns without invalidating them. It is equally vital to let them flow naturally from your kids; don’t push them to say or feel anything until they are ready. Your replies also need to be tailored based on the age and maturity of your offspring. A four-year-old cannot process and understand things in the same way as a 13-year-old.

2. Be Honest

It is important not to lie. With the prevalence of social media, older kids can easily find out what actually happened, particularly if it was a high-profile arrest. Even if you limit their access to electronics, their friends and peers may tell them. For younger children, you may want to use simpler explanations such as comparing jail to timeout but still avoid untruths since they will eventually have to know.

3. Be Reassuring

The sudden, potentially long, absence of one of the most influential people in their lives can traumatize children. Studies have found that youths with an imprisoned parent have an increased likelihood of developing antisocial tendencies, getting involved in criminal activities, suffering from psychological issues, experiencing difficulties in school and ending up in economic straits. One of the most important things you can do is be a steady, comforting presence. Reassure your children that, first, they are not at fault in any way, and second, that they have not lost their other parent forever. These are two common fears harbored by kids whose parents are arrested. Acting as normally as possible may also help them feel more stable.

Having a parent taken away by the authorities can be very mentally and emotionally hard on children. Being patient, honest and reassuring when relating the situation to them can soften the impact of the knowledge on them.

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