Category: For Mothers

Silent Heroes

Silent Heroes Cover Image

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. 


Emotions Kids Feel When Their Father Is Incarcerated


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 or call (630) 465-4268. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through the links at the top of this page.

Reunification of Husband

Reunification of Husband

Returning Home

Families of the incarcerated look forward to the release date but reunification isn’t always smooth and easy. In this post, we discuss the challenges wives face when husbands are released and provide tips to overcome them.

Two factors contribute to the challenges the wife faces. One is difficult past experiences with her husband and the other is her expanded role in the family during his incarceration.

To reunite successfully, the couple should understand that things have changed and they themselves are now different people. Their family too has changed as children grow older. Husband and wife will have to renegotiate their roles in the family and if they are not on the same page, reunification may not be successful.


Communication: While he is in prison, the couple will need to work together to maintain their relationship as a couple. Staying in communication will be a challenge for both, but especially for the wife who now has more on her plate.

Wife’s role is now bigger: With her husband away, the wife has to care for her children and their home, in most cases, alone. She needs to make decisions without the support of her partner. Mom also is now the sole person responsible for the preservation, strengthening and ultimate growth of the family. She is taking on a lot and this makes her a stronger mother and braver person in general.

Husband’s role is now less: In prison, her husband is in a new environment with different rules and its own challenges. He is no longer providing for the physical needs of his family and can no longer provide emotional support in the way he was used to.

Preparing for reunification

Reunification as a goal: Preparing for reunification should start from the time of incarceration. If possible, the couple should agree to work towards reunification. This helps them to look to the future. It would lessen the pain of separation, even if incarceration is lengthy.

Keeping the family together: Incarceration can be stressful for the children and mom maintains the family while the father is incarcerated, by nurturing the mental and emotional health of the children.

How mom keeps the family strong
How mom keeps the family strong

When dad returns, the entire family can focus on reunifying as the family has persevered and grown positively. If she is successful in keeping the family strong, the issues that may occur at reunification will be less.

After the husband’s return

Practice patience and listen: The couple should remember their experiences during the husband’s incarceration were very different. Patience is needed to learn what each other went through and it may be very difficult to talk through the experiences.

Communicate: As a couple, they may need to relearn how to communicate. Carving out time to reconnect away from family and friends after he comes home to give yourselves time to reunite.  

Manage expectations: Both husband and wife may have different expectations of what happens after reunification as life is now different. Before reunification, counseling is helpful to prepare the couple and the family. Having conversations about the future helps to manage expectations.

Take time to adjust: The husband will need time to adjust to life outside of prison. It might be very different on the outside depending on the length of incarceration. Kids will be older and they are going to need special time to reconnect with their dad. 

Renegotiate roles: For the wife, the change of role after reunification may be the biggest challenge. Her responsibilities when her comes home will change because now it will be a shared partnership once again. More importantly, her husband will be relearning his role in the family, and compromises will be key as the couple readjusts to being a family unit. 

After husband returns
After husband returns

When reunification isn’t desirable

Some families completely sever contacts with the incarcerated person for reasons like moral issues around incarceration or domestic abuse. Reunification is sometimes undesirable but the father may have the right to a relationship with his children. Go to the National Domestic Violence hotline for help or call 1-800-799-7233.

Do you you need more information about family reunification support in Illinois? Do you have questions about what we shared in this post? Please use our Building Families Together contact form. You can also email us at or call (630) 465-4268. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through the links at the top of this page. Find out more about our Fatherhood Reentry Program on our Services page of our website.

While Dad’s Away

Dad is gone

While Dad’s Away
by Linda De Carvalho

Dad is gone

Time clicks slowly while dad’s away, especially if he is gone for an extended period of time. Days, weeks, months, and years without dad can make life difficult for the family. Alone as head of the household, mom is left to meet the needs of her children, pay the bills, do the shopping, and possibly find work.

Although this sounds like a tall order, there are single parents who accomplish these feats every day. Of course, that doesn’t make the struggle any easier. Running things at home as a single parent is a challenge and you’ll need all the help you can get. Here are some things to consider as you take on this huge responsibility:

  1. Be the rock. If you find yourself alone raising the kids without dad, it’s important to remember that they need to feel secure. Having a solid foundation under their feet is critical. If they know you will always be there, they will be better prepared to weather any storm. Find ways to show the kids that they are not alone. Whenever possible, show up at practice or the big game. Or send a note in their lunch to be found and read later in the day. Tell them how much you love them, how much they mean to you, and that you will always be there.
  2. Accept the challenge and make a list. Like it or not, you have a big job to do and you will need to be in the right frame of mind to get it done. No one expects perfection in life’s daily arena, so just do the best you can. Start with making a list of all the things that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, and so on. Keep the list handy so you can refer to it often. If you are a techie, create the list on your smart phone, and if you need to, set alarms to remind you of the tasks.
  3. Get help! Rally together family and friends to lend a hand when you need it most. Kids can be especially helpful for small jobs around the house like emptying the trash, sweeping the floor, folding clothes, etc. You can also find local and online resources to help you with finances, support groups, and more. For example, here are a couple of websites to check out that provide lots of resources: Building Families Together and this government website
  4. Keep the lines of communications open. If you don’t already do this, begin holding a family meeting weekly. Bring the kids together to talk about their needs and how you and their siblings can help. After all, you are all in this together and you will need to keep a united front to support each other in any way possible. And don’t just talk about problems. Maybe invite each family member to bring a new joke to each meeting to loosen up any tensions. Use meeting time to discuss how the family can have fun together or plan a fun activity during the meeting that they can all participate in like playing a game or making cookies.
  5. Keep the family busy. Children will feel a void while dad’s away and will appreciate and benefit from activities that are fun and teach them something at the same time. Encourage the kids to play sports or sign up them up at your local parks and recreation center for other activities that help reinforce the values of working together and teamwork.

Above all, be good to yourself! Stay away from negative people who can make your journey harder. You’ll be happier and better off finding positive folks to share ideas and a cup of coffee. Finally, don’t expect too much from yourself on any given day. 

Parents’ Guide to Handling Chaos

Handling Chaos

Parents’ Guide to Handling Chaos
by Linda De Carvalho 

Busy FatherToday’s families are crazy busy! They complain that their time is maxed out and don’t know how they will get everything done. It’s difficult to find a day that doesn’t have a packed schedule filled with work, school, sports, homework, and many other activities that can strain relationships and dig into quality time together. Parents find themselves wearing many hats as they run around at lightning speed acting as taxi drivers, coaches, tutors, maids, mediators, referees, personal shoppers, and so much more. As time gets tight and things get rushed or forgotten, the pressure mounds on family members and chaos begins. It’s no wonder that tempers flare, fights break out, and tears flow.

Mom and dads have always had too much to do. But let’s get real, times are different now. Gone are the days that we might find neighborhood kids playing a leisurely baseball game in an empty lot as mom spends hours on a home cooked meal. Today’s challenges seem to escalate as family members push and pull to equalize the time devoted to their own various and seemingly endless needs. That’s when it can get real ugly, emotions run high, and chaos takes over.

Here are a few tips to help manage the chaos and give you the confidence to say, “I got this!”:

  1. Realize that chaos is normal. Every family has its share of madness from time to time. Whether someone forgot to walk the dog, somebody left a trail of muddy footprints all over the house, or a guilty party ate all the brownies for the open house—stuff happens. Learn to accept that reality so that when it happens, you’ll be more in control.
  2. Take a step back. Once you feel the pot of emotions are about to boil and the kids start yelling at each other, stop and observe. Don’t find yourself being a part of the shouting match and arguing points back and forth, which only escalates the tension.
  3. Establish rules for fighting. Truth be told, sometimes it’s best to let all parties let their feelings out and try to “discuss” the issues. Just make sure there are rules to follow that are designed to respect each other’s perceptions and that allows all parties to express themselves without fear of ridicule. For example, one effective rule is to not allow any name calling or personal insults that have no bearing on the discussion. Make family members stay on topic, give examples, and offer a reasonable solution. And don’t forget to enforce the “no interruption” rule.
  4. Divide and conquer. When things are too hot to handle, it may be best to stop the boxing match and separate the fighters! Suggest kids go to their room to cool down before making any decisions. Talk to each of them separately to learn what’s really bothering them and to help formulate next steps, if any.
  5. Think positive. Challenge family members to find the silver lining and what good can come of the obstacle/issue they’re facing. You may be surprised at what comes from the power of positive thinking.
  6. Remember your role. Sometimes being a parent is no fun. But being a parent is critical to keeping a family household in order. Resist the temptation of being “too cool” and trying to be your children’s friend as this can blur the lines of authority and confuse your kids. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play games, read together, sing and dance, or just have a good laugh. Just be sure your words and actions are consistent with being a parent.
  7. Plan to make time. In order to have time set aside for anything, you will have to plan for it. You may have to sacrifice another activity, like going to the gym, to bring the family together and do something meaningful. Maybe you want to plan a time to do crafts together to help decorate the house for the upcoming season. Or maybe just getting out of the house and finding a wonderful place to hike together will help family members enjoy each other’s company. Whatever you do, you’ll create memories of a lifetime while you’re at it! The idea is to break away from the hectic routine of daily life to allow family members to bond in the experience.
  8. Have fun! When appropriate, try to make light of situations when the going gets tough. Is there a joke in there somewhere? Remember that laughing out loud is good for the body and the soul.

As a parent, you may have tips of your own to add to this list! Exploring the options of how best to deal with a family crisis ahead of time will make you and your family more prepared to deal with the chaos.


5 Ways to Help Kids Learn What They’re Passionate About

Learning Blog

5 Ways to Help Kids Learn What They’re Passionate About
by Linda De Carvalho

Learning BlogFor some of us, the hardest thing in life is finding what we love to do while others seem to gravitate towards it naturally. Either way, it’s important to discover what you are most passionate about. Achieving a career path that includes what motivates you can help make your work life worthwhile. If you get paid for what you love to do, you’ve achieved what most people only dream about.

But ask any teenager what he or she is planning to do following graduation and many times you’ll get the response, “I don’t know.” Or talk to college students about their future and you might be surprised at how many have changed their majors and are not sure what they want to do with their degree. Yet, if you ask a child in elementary school, you might get immediate answers like “nurse,” “firefighter,” or “teacher.” These primary school children may be on to something! Or are they responding based on a show or presentation they’ve seen on You Tube, TV, or at school?

According to Deborah Yaffe, College, Careers, and Kindergarten (District Administration), even early learners “can start preparing for life after graduation.” But being ready for the “demands of college and careers,” although equally important, does not necessarily speak to what kind of activities motivates and inspires kids. And as Deborah reminds us in her article, even the experts caution that efforts to meet educational standards should not be void of fun activities and choices.

Can parents or caregivers help children find what they love to do?  Here are a few things to try:

  1. Leave your own preferences out of it. Set aside your own preconceived notions about what your children should do! Let them figure out for themselves what motivates them. Have discussions with your children that include their ideas of what they’d like to do now and what they see themselves doing later as grownups.
  1. Skip the labels. Don’t let their gender or personality dictate the type of interests they should pursue. It will help kids to understand themselves better when they learn more about what attracts them, not what is externally expected of them. If your daughter is a tomboy, take her camping! Get them to connect with nature, with people, and with the community.
  1. Explore, explore, explore! Get out of the house and provide your kids with exposure to new and different activities to try. You’ll love the smiles on their faces when they find something they truly enjoy. If they’re good at it is irrelevant. The goal is to find an activity they enjoy. Remember, this is discovery time.
  1. Sign ‘em up! Look for classes, summer camps, interactive museums, and other activities that may inspire your children. Check out the local community centers for starters to find things that might interest them.
  1. Be patient and look on the bright side. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to determine what you love to do, so don’t rush your child. Kids learn at their own pace, so just relax and enjoy the ride! And don’t be surprised if they change their minds along the way. What they love to do this week, may be what they hate next week.

father and son


One thing is for sure, as children try to find what they love to do, they’ll also figure out what they don’t want to do in life and that’s just as important.




Click here to be on out mailing list