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Dr. Rossi
Dr. Rossi, Licensed Psychotherapist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 4627
Experience:  Certified Hypnotherapist, Parenting Book Author, 13+ years of experience.
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Telling a 6 year old about parent incarcerated

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I was wondering the best way to approach telling a 6 year old their parent is incarcerated. The child is my granddaughter. She does have a relationship with her father and I was just told the best case scenario would be a 5 year sentence meaning she would be 12 years old when released. I no honesty is the best policy but how do you cushion this somewhat so that a 6 year old can understand and not think bad of their parent?  He was incarcerated for about 2 years when she was two but she was too young to remember.  She went to visit him last month for his birthday.  There are moments when with me I can tell she is thinking about him.  She says he lives in New York but i no as she gets older she will be able to understand more about where he is.  My daughter is raising her and obviously responsible for her day to day care.  During the time he was home he would get her on Sunday for a few hours and take her shopping etc.  She has a very large extended and loving family on both sides but in the instance of a parent, this may not be enough.  I don't want her to think bad of him or feel any shame about his situation.



You may approach the subject by speaking with her about the fact that everyone can make mistakes. Explain to her that some mistakes that adults make lead to consequences such as being sent to a place like a time out facility. Find out what her understanding of where he is and then in age related term, speak to her about the nature of the place, the fact that there are other kid's dads there as well and that making a mistake does not translate to being intrinsically bad (people can learn from their mistakes and change over time) Hence, his is using this time to better himself.

If the two of them are able to see one another during visitations and for her to receive mail and send mail/pictures to him, it may make it easier for her to deal with the situation with time rather than be isolated. Both can contribute to each other's life in positive ways (as long as he is not abusive to her and her mother is all right with them keeping in touch) She may ask about what he had done to get the consequence and if she is too young to comprehend you may let her know that a child may not understand it but that she later on can ask him to help her understand when she's older. If the crime was something you can talk about to her without her feeling traumatized then you can outline the basic facts and connect the behavior with being something against the law and remind her that he had made mistake.

You may also let her know that it is normal to miss him and that if she ever wants to tell you about it that you're there to listen.



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