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Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration

The incarceration of a loved one can be very overwhelming for both children and caregivers. It can bring about big changes and transitions. In simple everyday ways, you can comfort your child and guide her through these tough moments. With your love and support she can get through anything that comes her way. Here are some tools to help you with the changes your child is going through.

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Explore the Tools in the Kit:

Read quick facts, download resource guides, and more!

For Providers
As a service provider, you play an important role in helping families cope with the incarceration of a loved one. With your support and guidance, families can discover that they can get through anything together. You know your audience best, so choose the resources that will work in your setting. These resources are specifically created for you.

For Caregivers
Though the incarceration of a loved one brings about many challenges, it also provides an opportunity to show your child how much you love and care for him. Your love and support are the most important things to help him cope with this difficult change. Here are some tools to help you navigate some of the transitions and challenges that a parent's incarceration can bring.

#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.

About This Project

Little Children, Big Challenges provides much-needed resources for families with young children (ages 3 – 8) as they encounter the difficult changes and transitions that come with a parent's incarceration.
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