Experts agree that successfully raising a child requires the presence of both parents. There are many reasons why a parent is not available during their children’s life an each reason affects the child differently. In this post we review the impact when a child has an incarcerated father. We also share how the mother’s role also changes as she is now a silent hero.
Awareness of What is Happening
We recommend that the child finds out about the father’s incarceration from the mother and not anyone else. Tell the child in a manner appropriate to their age. It is never an excellent choice to keep the child in the dark because they will eventually have questions that need to be answered.
The Emotional Toll
Forced separation disrupts the bond between father and child and research shows that this life change can damage the child’s physical and emotional well-being. From studies, we know that children of incarcerated fathers will be feeling fear, confusion, loss, shame, aggression and anger.
Feelings of confusion, loss, shame and anger do not mean that mom is failing. She is in a very difficult role providing support for the entire family. For everyone involved, coping is still tough. We consider her to be a silent hero facing different demands and needs from her children. We turned the image above into a cheat sheet for mom and included additional resources. Download it here.
Coping with emotions – tips for our silent heroes
We have tips to share with moms on how they can be successful in their role as silent heroes.
1. Maintain the relationship with the incarcerated father
Keeping ties with the incarcerated father is essential to successful family reunification. It also helps with maintaining the child’s bond with their father. Encourage your child to keep a healthy relationship with their father given that this helps both father and child. Depending on their age, the child may understand their father’s situation and the consequences.
2. Watch out for substance abuse
Mothers are dealing with their own difficult emotions. Reaching for drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism is easy, but we ask mothers to be brave, courageous and strong for the sake of their families and stay away from drugs and alcohol as we know this behavior eventually causes more harm than good.
3. Join a Support Group
There are many on Facebook and there may be some in your area. There are many supportive people out there. We understand no one ever wants to join the “I lost my spouse” club. Fortunately when you do, you’ll find that these are the people you needed in your life and they came at the perfect time.
These are the people who will set their cell phone to a different ringer for you, so they absolutely won’t miss your call at 2 a.m. They will let you curse like a sailor and say every other word because life is just not fair anymore. And, they let you still be upset a month, a year, even ten years from now.
4. Pamper Yourself
Yes, do something for you! This is so important that you don’t get so far in the dumps you forget how important you are. Plus if you can’t take care of yourself you will find it extremely difficult to effectively take are of anyone else, including your children, right? So what can you do even if you are on a budget?
- Give yourself an Indian head massage
- Find an awesome deal on a massage or facial
- Write in a journal
- Buy yourself a special treat at the grocery store
- Give yourself a DIY pedicure
- Put together a bouquet there’s something about fresh flowers in the house
- Connect with good friends
Moms what other suggestions can you give to help each other out? We would love to hear from you.
Building Families Together offers several programs to support incarcerated individuals and their families. If you want more information on our services, check out our Services page of our website. If you have questions about what we shared in this post and about our services, please use our Building Families Together contact form. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (630) 465-4268. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through the links at the top of this page.