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Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).
I am very sorry to know about this little girl and her family situation.
It is never easy buy controversial to cope with this scenario, since there is no easy way to tell a child about such overwhelming and potentially traumatic life event.
Was this girl living with the father before this happened?
Mist sound research and what has been learned from clinical experience is that not providing a real, clear and valid enough information to a child about a traumatic event like this, could deepen the shock as well as its impact in her mental health and well-being, as well as her chances for rehabilitating form it.
Those children who do not know what truly happened with their parent, got distorted information, or different levels of deception occurred, have a much harder time coping with this life event and adjusting to the serious changes it creates.
The best approach then would be to tell the girl in simple words she could understand what happened, without lying to her, but making it clear this has nothing to do with her, since no matter how much non-sense it would be to associate any responsibility to the child for her father's behaviors, children always tend to feel guilt for anything parents do affecting them, to the point or blaming themselves for painful situations that have nothing to do with them, this is why it is so necessary to be honest and clear with her about what happened, for her to be able not to get more traumatized, to cope better with it and to heal too.
Obviously this information should not be given presenting the father as a bad person, but a person who made mistakes and need to take responsibility for his actions in order to be able to take good care of himself and then to be able to get back to their family after that necessary process he will stay away.
This would allow her to grieve in more effective ways, adjust to her new reality, while supporting all the help and love she could get from her mother, family and ideally by a marriage and family therapist and a child psychotherapist.
It should be presented with unconditional love, empathy, gentleness, compassion and support, open to answer her questions in a caring and proactive way, always reinforcing the belief that what happened has nothing to do with what she did, but exclusively a personal issue her father got involved with because of lack of understanding and poor choices.
Yes, she has always lived with her mother & father. Right now she thinks he is away on a job, but he just got 18 months, so he won't be back any time soon. In addition, is it better for a child that young to visit her father in jail, or just speak to him on the phone?
Did they have a good relationship? How attached is the child to her father?
Yes they are very close. He was the main disciplinarian, and many times the primary caregiver
I am very sorry to know bout this, then it is and would be a huge challenge for her, the adjustment would take time, and this is why her mother and her whole family - support system should play a very active healthy and supportive role.
Would the prison where he will be located would not be too far away from her?
Not too far. She could visit 1x/week
You need to take into account diverse factors, from her fathers openness and willingness for her to visit him, from the distance between home and prison, prison's regulations about visitation of little children, how adequate would be the place and its privacy for them to meet and more, and obviously the child's feelings and reaction to it.
That's very good indeed.
if her father is able to cope well with it, her visits could be beneficial for the child and for him too, once they have this deep attachment and he was the main caregiver.
She would feel less fear about her father's well-being and love if she could meet him and receive his affection, attention and assurance that things are working as they need to and that they will be fine since he is working on doing his best to learn from his mistakes, and because of the love he has for her.
Sounds good. Thank you for your help
You're very welcome.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions, since I am here willing to support you as possible.
Thank you for your trust.