The innovative television show, Sesame Street, recently aired a show for children with incarcerated parents to help them express their feelings of abandonment.
The show was developed for children aged 3-8, according to Rebecca Honig-Briggs, creator of A Guide to Support Parents and Caregivers—Little Children Big Challenges: Incarceration. The program shows a parent or caregiver ways to comfort a child with everyday activities and routines to guide them through tough moments.
Little Children Big Challenges: Incarceration warns parents or caregivers to “look for signs of big feelings,” such as sudden yelling or crying, diffi culty sleeping, unusual clinging, hitting, eating more or less than usual, smiling or laughing less often, having new fears and bed wetting. Sometimes when children act out, they may be feeling confused.
The guide instructs parents or caregivers to “help your child share feelings” by talking and listening. “Mention things you notice about the way he/she acts.”
‘Even though you are incarcerated,
you can still play an important
role in your child’s life’
To get at the feelings children are undergoing, it’s important to be patient and ask questions. If he/she can’t fi nd the words, get the child to draw pictures. Little Children Big Challenges: Incarceration advises adults “to hug and hold the child close—a simple touch gives confidence.”
It’s important to be aware of your own feelings. “Your child responds to and learns from your reactions. Coping with your feelings is a powerful way to help your child.”
Honesty is important, the guide emphasizes the truth matters. As diffi cult as it is, caregivers should tell the truth. It is the best way to help a child feel loved and to build a special trusting bond.
If the child asks, “Where is Daddy?” The guide advises parents or caregivers to say, “Daddy is in a place called prison for a while. Grown-ups sometimes go to prison when they break a rule called a law.”
If they ask, “Will I get to see Daddy”? Honig-Briggs suggests saying, “You can visit Daddy in prison once in a while. I’ll let you know when. Between visits, you can write him letters, draw him pictures, and talk to him on the phone.”
“You will always be a parent,” the guide states. “Even though you are incarcerated, you can still play an important role in your child’s life.”
If you are incarcerated and want to receive a pamphlet Tips for Incarcerated Parents send a self address stamp envelope to San Quentin News at: San Quentin News, Education Dept. 1 Main Street, San Quentin, CA 94974.
Information may be obtained online at: sesamestreet.org/incarceration