Having a child go to jail is one of the worst things that can happen to any parent. It is important for you to try to remain calm and to help your child through this time. Most likely you will be an emotional wreck, and quite possibly furious with your child. However, if you stand by your child during this difficult time, you can decrease the likelihood of this happening again. In order for your child to improve his life and change, he or she needs support right now. Please note that the tips in this article are directed to parents of a child in jail, not prison. Prison rules are very different and beyond the scope of this article. Remember, you are supporting your child through a difficult time, not condoning what they did. Hopefully, you can provide support and help your child successfully re-enter society when their sentence is up. The first thing you should do is call the jail and find out if they have a rulebook for visitors or online guidelines.
Jails are full of rules, and any violation leads to major trouble. Note that jail employees aren’t noted for their friendliness, so keep this in mind when you call, and have extra patience. Once you know the rules, deposit some money in your child’s account. This may seem like you are coddling your child, who, after all, is in jail for a reason, but is necessary. Many jails only provide a tooth brush and toothpaste. Deodorant, shampoo, underwear, toothpaste refills all cost money, and are provided through commissary. This is the jail store, and the prices are sky high. A stick of deodorant may cost five dollars or more. So please provide enough for the basic necessities. You can usually find out the prices by calling the jail, but not always. If you wish, you can send extra for candy bars, snacks and such, but this is not necessary. If you wish, you can use your child’s own money for this, if you have access to it. Let your child know you are sending him his own money, so they are not surprised when they get out.
At a minimum, write to your child on a regular basis. Try to keep the letters upbeat. They know they messed up; they don’t need to be reminded. Write about the dog, siblings, whatever comes to mind. It does not have to be a literary masterpiece, but a simple note to let them know you still care. Remember, if you want your child to write back, they will need money for stamps, envelopes, paper, and pencils. If you can handle it, visit your child. Get the rules in advance, and follow them to the letter. The jail can cancel the visit for any rule violation, so be extra careful. Try to keep the visits upbeat, discuss plans for when they get out, any self improvement classes they are taking in jail, etc. Yelling at your child for putting you in this situation helps no one, and may get you banned from future visits. One thing many jails allow you to do is send your child books, directly from the vendor. Get the details on this from the jail. Many people become avid readers in jail, and may as well use the otherwise wasted hours to improve their mind.
The most important thing to do is to remind your child that, while you don’t approve of their actions, you still love them, and that you are ready to help them make better choices upon their release.