If dealing with feelings after an incarceration is difficult for adults, then it’s nearly impossible for a child.
It’s not surprising our friends from Sesame Street offer a tool kit specifically geared towards helping children cope with incarceration.
The tool kit is available on their website and can be purchased as a whole or in individual pieces. They cover dealing with feelings, “family day” at school and activity books like the “My Family Story Book” to help children explain their family to others. This is a great collection for any adult caring for children under age 8 with an incarcerated loved one. It’s even a good choice to help some adults comfort their inner child!
I’m from Sesame Street and I’m here to help!
To get you started, here are Sesame Street’s seven tips for helping children cope.
#1 – Build Security
In the morning, let your child know some of the things that will happen throughout the day. For example, “Grandma will pick you up from school. Then you’ll go to the park, and later we’ll all have dinner together.”
#2 – Share Your Heart
Give your child a paper heart to keep in her pocket. You might say, “This is to remind you that I love you and will always be there for you.”
#3 – Express Emotions
Take time each day to check in with your child and ask, “How are you feeling?” Remember to let your child know that it’s okay to have big feelings no matter what they are.
#4 – Answer Honestly
When explaining where an incarcerated parent is, you can say, “Daddy is in a place called prison (or jail) for a while. Grown-ups sometimes go to prison when they break a rule called a law.”
#5 – Stay Connected
Phone calls are a great way to reach out. Help your child to think of something she’d like to tell her incarcerated parent, and give her a photo of her parent to hold during the call.
#6 – Prepare Together
Before you visit your incarcerated loved one, let your child know some of the things she can expect to happen. For instance, “We won’t be able to sit in the same room with Mommy, but we can see her through a window and read a story together.”
#7 – Take Care of Yourself
Caring for yourself helps you care for your child. At least once a day, do something that you enjoy or find relaxing.