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Question for those that have had a family member, DH/SO, etc in jail or prison.

What do you tell your children that their daddy or family member is at? The reason that I ask is because my husband works at our county jail. The other day, I came by to bring him some food because they were very busy. It just so happens that it was visitation night and I had to wait in the lobby with the visitors that were there for visitation. A child (about 7-8 years old) came up to my son and asked him if his daddy was in jail too. The mom scolded her child saying "he is not in jail, he is on "vacation". I also just read a post where the mom said that the dad was "at work". I am just curious, why lie to your child like this? I might could understand if they were really young and it would be hard to explain, but for a child is of school age, they know more than we give them credit for. Wouldn't it be better to explain that daddy (or whoever) did something bad and is having to serve time to make up for it? I am not trying to judge, I am just really curious about this and the reasoning behind telling a child that daddy is "on vacation" or "at work" (especially when they are going to the jail to see daddy).

Answer Question

Asked by JeremysMom at 9:25 AM on Dec. 17, 2010 in Parenting Debate

Level 35 (75,344 Credits)
Answers (30)
  • Maybe you think it would be better to explain that daddy is in jail since your husband is on the other side of the bars. I think most people want to protect their kids from that knowledge, I know I would if my husband was "away."

    Answer by Orionsgirl at 9:27 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • My uncle was in jail for drunk driving many times and his wife always told the kids exactly where he was at and why. She hoped it would keep them from drinking excessively like their father. It worked for all but the oldest one who ended up living with my uncle when him and wife split.

    Answer by aeneva at 9:29 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • I don't have a family member in jail but I can see why a mom would tell the kids "at work." Kids learn at an even younger age that jail is the bad place where bad people go. And no kids see their own dad as bad. And many times, people are in jail for lessor charges like traffic violations or not paying child support. Also, the kids, in time will know what the real deal so why ruin their experience now?

    Answer by keisha613 at 9:29 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • Orionsgirl, I could see that with a child who is very young or one that didn't get to visit their dad/family member in jail, but when they know that there dad is in jail and the mom is scolding them for saying so, it just doesn't make sense to me. It looks like it would be a good teaching moment to let there child know that even as an adult, if you do something wrong that there are consequences.


    Comment by JeremysMom (original poster) at 9:30 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • It can also twist the child's perception of their parent though. Having the knowledge that daddy is a jailbird? Not cool. Of course if you are taking a school age child, 9 or 10 yrs old, into a jail, I don't see how you can hide the words COUNTY JAIL from them. But still, I would not tell my child their dad was in jail. I would protect them from that and teach them life lessons as I would have if their dad was not in jail.

    Answer by Orionsgirl at 9:34 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • True, but I remember as a child, my uncle was in jail for breaking/entering into a public officials office and stealing certain paperwork. I went to visit him a few times and not once did I ever think less of my uncle. My mom just explained that he did something that he shouldn't have done and now he needs to be in jail to make up for it.


    Comment by JeremysMom (original poster) at 9:39 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • I agree. It'd be better for the child to hear that even adults have to be punished when they mess up.

    Answer by bseastrand at 9:45 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • I have 2 gs and their parents have both been in jail and their father is currently in prison. These are my sons children that i have full custody of, they are 5 & 7 and they know exactly where their father is and why he is there. Because he took something from someone that didn't belong to him. I don't take the children to see him because i don't think it's a good enviroment for them and frankly they have never asked to visit. He knew long before he got into trouble as does their mother that you go to jail you won't be seeing your children until you get out. Do the parents like it ? NO but my feeling is if you want to be a part of your childrens lives don't screw up.

    Answer by oosgrandma at 9:53 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • This is a tough one. Children are more worried about bad things happening to their parents than themselves. I guess depending on the age, I think esp if it were a 6 months or less sentence, I may make up a white lie, about dad being gone "on business". If they are older, chances are they know what is going on regardless. I agree with the above post...if you are a parent, you have a responsibility to the little people in your world to not get put in jail in the first place...again the innocent ones pay the price for poor decisions.

    Answer by salexander at 11:00 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

  • people freak when they hear "jail" or "prison". i think its fine for the kids or whomever wants to refer to the person locked up as being somewhere else. they should not have to bear the brunt of embarrassment especially as children. my ex is locked up for 40 yrs for murder and i have two kids by him. having a 10 y/o tell you this would not especially make you jump for joy your child is playing with them. we learned long ago to just say he lives "far away" and avoid all the stigma that only he should bear.

    Answer by lillie70 at 11:37 AM on Dec. 17, 2010

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