Published On: Wed, May 22nd, 2019

Arrests happen; even to the best of us.

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But when they happen to mothers, fathers, siblings, and other loved ones, it can be difficult explaining the situation to a child. In times when an arrest leads to prolonged jail sentences, at some point it will have to be explained to the children. In cases like these, it is important to have a plan for what to say when kids start asking questions. Continue reading for tips about how to explain jail and arrests to children.

When is Daddy Coming Home?

If a parent, legal guardian, or close loved one is arrested and must spend some time in jail, kids will begin to ask questions about their whereabouts. It is devastating for a family to have to hear questions like, “when is daddy coming home?” or “why is mommy still gone?” But it is important to be prepared to explain their absence in a manner that does not frighten them or confuse them. We may feel like the kids are oblivious to adult problems and circumstances, but they are not. So it is our duty to protect them from bearing too much burden or confusion by being clear and honest about what happened to their loved one.

For many children, changes in life can be a major stressor. And when a parent or loved one is arrest and has to go to jail, it changes their life drastically. For kids with only one parent, a prolonged jail sentence often times gets them placed in foster care, or alternative guardianship like an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Not only is this a big change, they cannot understand why it is all happening in the first place.

This is why it is important to communicate responsibly with children of jailed parents or loved ones. But keep in mind that it is not necessary to disclose details about legal troubles and other adult topics. Keep the conversation delicate and to the point. It is up to the family to decide just how much detailed information to disclose about the arrest and jail sentence.

Answering Questions

The best way to answer difficult questions about jail and arrests to children is to simply tell them their loved one went to jail because they did not obey the law. This is usually the most efficient method. Sometimes it’s helpful to use analogies with younger children by explaining that jail is like a long time-out for adults; and when grownups misbehave, they are sent to adult time out for a long period of time.

Children need to know that not everyone goes to jail, and that it is important to behave and obey the law. You can use this opportunity to teach them a valuable lesson in life. Be sure to also explain that they will be able to communicate with their loved one as well. If kids continue to have questions once you have explained everything, there is no harm in simply saying you don’t know. It is best to shut down the conversation topic as soon as possible so they do not dwell on it.

The most important part to explaining jail and arrests to children is to assure them that it is not their fault and that they are loved very much. This gives children a platform to be open and honest, and to feel safe and secure expressing their emotions. It is important for kids to know that they are in no way responsible for their loved one’s behavior.

Be sure to contact a criminal defense lawyer for help getting out of jail while awaiting trial. The more time you can spend with your children, the better it is for everyone.

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