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Raising Children With a Parent in Prison

single parenting ron and cathy tijerina

Here are things you need to know to help them grow

Raising children who have a parent in prison can be a challenge. They are just like every other child their age.  And they are very different from other children their age. Moreover, is important to recognize both of these facts.

Children with a parent in prison need to know they are not wildly different from their peers.  Many of their struggles will be the same struggles most of their friends will encounter as well.  When they know that they are like everyone else, that pain and joy are both experienced by everyone, their resiliency will increase.

Help your children find their place in the world

They will also need to know that although pain is a part of everyone’s life, the particular struggle they are experiencing may be different than the struggles of their friends. Depending on the children’s ages, they will gain strength from understanding they are just like everyone else—but they are also unique and not like anyone else in the world.  The idea of being uniquely themselves, and also belonging to a larger group is important.

Helping our children find their place in the world is a balance between finding acceptance while establishing their individual identity.  Both are vitally important to their well being.

Here are things you need to know to help them grow

It is not easy to navigate through childhood with a parent in prison.  The complexities of prison cause children a lot of grief, pain and sorrow.  It is our job to make sure they are not swallowed up by their current circumstance.  The most important virtue you must help them develop is HOPE.

Developing the ability to hope provides the strength needed to overcome nearly every adversity. In order to ensure your children are well acquainted with hope, I have a few tips to share with you:

My baby, Bria, was just 3 days old the first time she entered a prison visiting room. She was there to met her daddy and her daddy was about to meet her. They were about to meet each other, and it was in a prison visiting room.  I tried not to think about it as I got her bathed and dressed that morning. 

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metting her daddy in prison

5 Things to help your children grow

  1. Let them have their childhood. In other words, don’t make their lives revolve around the fact that their parent is in prison. Let them play, make friends, laugh, be silly, color pictures.
  2. Tell them the truth. Do not let them hear that their parent is in prison from someone else.  It needs to come from you.  Although, how much information you share depends on their age.
  3. Keep moving forward. You cannot stop living just because you are suddenly a single parent whose partner is in prison. Do not give up. Your children need to see resiliency in your life. Take care of yourself, take advantage of all the resources around you, and keep moving toward a better life.  Seeing you hang onto hope is the best chance that they have of overcoming all the obstacles in front of them.
  4. Make Connections. Find groups that your child can join for friendship and support.  Nobody should have to go through a hard time alone.  Churches, YMCAs, Mentoring programs, sports—all of these are great ways to keep your child connected. (Church is a must in my book. Kids need to know that God cares for them and has a plan for their lives!)
  5. No pity parties. Do not glorify the situation by focusing on all the loss your child is experiencing.  Instead, focus on the positive parts of your lives and practice being grateful for what you do have.

Build bonds, memories, and strength of character together.  Your children do not have to become a negative statistic. Stay focused and keep focusing on building your new legacy.

I am rooting for you!