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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I have guardianship of my 4 year old grandaughter... my

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I have guardianship of my 4 year old grandaughter... my daughter was recently sent to jail. Do I take my 4 year old to visit her mother in jail? Also, what do I say to her when she asks about her mom? She wants to know where she is, etc. I sent Dr.Phil a message, detailing more of the situtation. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

Whether or not you allow your grandchild to see her mother in jail depends on the relationship she has with her mother and her age. Your granddaughter is very young, but if she was close to her mother prior to her mother being incarcerated, then she may benefit from continuing that relationship in person.

Your granddaughter may also want to see her mother but she may not understand that what jail is and why people are put there. It would be helpful, therefore, if you have a sit down talk with your granddaughter about her mother's situation and what a jail is for.

Your granddaughter does not need to know the details of why her mother is in jail. But you can describe why people are put in jail so she understands. Also, let her know that jail is supposed to help her mother understand not to do bad things again. Reassure her that she cannot go prison herself for doing something bad. Give her examples of the difference between adult bad behavior and a child's bad behavior. It may also help to show her pictures of a jail. If you do, let her know that her mother is safe in jail.

Allow your granddaughter to ask any question she wishes to. Children are smart and they are curious. They easily pick up being deceived or misled. Be as honest as you can be but leave out any traumatizing information.

After you talk with your granddaughter, decide if you feel she should see her mother in jail. If you do decide to take her, prepare her for the visit. Be there for her and allow her to talk about it afterwards. If you decide to not take her, then allow her to communicate with her mother through phone and mail. Send pictures, emails (if allowed), and have as many phone calls as possible. Make sure she has a picture of her mother and that she can send her mother photos of herself.

Also, keep your granddaughter in touch with the rest of her family. That way, she feels her mother's presence through other family members and she feels connected with her.

You may also want to have your granddaughter talk to a counselor to be sure she is handling the stress and separation from her mother well. You can find a therapist by asking your granddaughter's doctor for a referral or searching on line at

I hope this has helped you,

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