Issues and Facts
  • Are Our Children Grieving?

    Posted on   3/30/2016  6:38 PM

    When a parent is taken away to serve time in a correctional institution, will the parent’s child or children be grieving?

    It’s a complex question that depends on the child and on the relationship the child has with his or her parent.

    So we asked our staff to explore the issue of grieving on children. Here’s how they explain it, and what parents/caregivers need to know.

    How do I know whether my child is grieving?

    Grieving is never easy, but it provides the opportunity to process change or loss of any kind. Many people associate loss with the death of a loved one, but any type of loss can be categorized as grief. Grief is a natural and healthy part of responding to loss, but may be a difficult transition for children. Based on a child’s stage of development, he or she may not always know how to best articulate feelings or even be aware of what they might be feeling. Also some children may not always feel safe processing feelings without upsetting the caregiver. The more significant the loss is to the child, the more intense the grief can be.

    Grieving can be an outward and/or inward expression of responding to loss. Each child is different, so grief can be observed in different facets. Some red flags could include: talking or not talking about the loss; self-blame; “acting out” in school; physical complaints like stomach aches or headaches, academic issues (both failures and hyper-achievement); engaging in verbal and physical altercations in both school and in the home environment; appearing “clingy” to caregivers or adults; overeating or not eating enough; lack of sleep; irritability; and demonstration of regressive behaviors (typically observed in older children). However, if your child is displaying self-destructive or maladaptive behaviors, such as threats to hurt themselves/others or prolonged periods of isolation and withdrawal from peers and family, then you may need to consult a mental health provider for further assessment and possible treatment recommendations.

    What can I do to help heal the wound?

    As their parent, you are their biggest advocate and your voice can play an integral part in helping your child process through this their grief. As soon as possible, you should demystify false notions and rumors surrounding the loss and find out from your child, exactly what they know, thoughts and possibly their feelings regarding the loss. This will help you to clarify their current understanding of the loss.

    When communicating with your children, it is important to use age appropriate words such as “death”, “dying” and “loss”. Telling a six-year-old that mom has moved on to a better place leads that child to believe that their loved one should be returning in a few days. Children are naturally curious. It is important to be very patient, available, and responsive when they begin to ask questions.  Observe behaviors and try to address them immediately.  Allow your children to be themselves and take a break from the grief, such as through the use of play. 
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions and most certainly, reach out for help when needed.

    Connect to various social service agencies, such as Children of Inmates. 


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by  Bev Smith4/4/2016 9:44 PM

I think it goes without saying that a child loosing his parent to prison is grieving. That parent - child relationship is the first bond a child makes. A child's' life depends upon the parent to provide a safe environment. I believe the child will have issues with trusting others and this could definitely impair the child's development. Parents are the most important relationship a child develops. Unless that is interrupted. Even if the child's relationship with the parent is abusive, it's still their parent. Their original. Law of order in nature proves this. Certainly the opposite of grieving is joy. No child is joyous with an incarcerated parent . Even if they were abused.