How should I talk about a parent’s arrest with my children?

An arrest is a stressful situation for adults, but for kids, it can be confusing and upsetting. It can make them fearful and even angry. As a parent, you have to help your children understand the situation and process their emotions.

Strategies for Youth explains how you approach the situation will usually depend on the child’s age and what he or she can understand about the parent’s arrest.

Young children

Children who are not yet school-aged may have the hardest time understanding what is happening. You can make it easier for them by providing as much information as possible in terms they can understand.

Use simple language. Do not tell them you will do something you cannot do. Assure them that the other parent is fine and it is not the child’s fault this happened.

School-aged children

For older children, you can explain the situation in more detail. Still, you should assure the child he or she is not at fault in any way. Let the child ask questions and answer them honestly. If you do not know the answer, then tell the child you do not know.

Children this age are at a point where they often worry about right and wrong. Be ready to answer a lot of questions about what will happen next and about why the officers put the parent under arrest.

Teens

Teens may be more likely to express anger since they will probably understand the situation better. The anger may be towards officers or the parent. You should help the child stay calm and de-escalate the situation as best as possible.

Just as with younger children, make sure to be truthful about everything. Explain what you can, and answer any questions.

The bottom line is that you cannot ignore what happened. Your children will want to know what happened and will need you to be there to help them process the situation.

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