Advice About A Young Son And An Incarcerated Father

Dear Dr. Bill,

My 2 ½-year-old son and I are living with my parents until I can raise enough money to move out.  My son has some great role models in my father and my brothers, but I’ve been wondering what I should say to him about his own dad — who is a convict with a long prison sentence.

He hasn’t seen our son for almost two years and back then he wasn’t involved in his life at all.  But I know my son will have questions when he gets older.  I’m worried about how much I should tell him.  What do you think?


Dear Kristina,

Your son is blessed to have a mom who loves him so much.  As he grows, affirm him for who is: a special creation of his Heavenly Father.

As he begins to ask questions about his dad, be honest with him.  Explain that his father did some bad things and that he had to be punished for those things.

Make sure your son understands that his father is absent because of his own mistakes, not because of anything your son did. Tell him that it’s okay to be sad that he doesn’t have a dad.  Sometimes he might even feel angry about it.

But you should also explain that God doesn’t want us to hold grudges against people. Holding grudges and being bitter saddens God, and He also knows that it’s not good for us.

If the day comes when your ex wants to make contact with your son, you’ll need to decide if that is in his best interest.  Your decision should be based on whether or not his dad is truly repentant—both for the crimes he committed and for his lack of involvement in your son’s life.

In the meantime, your son is truly blessed to have wonderful male role models in his grandfather and his uncles.  As he grows, encourage these men to spend special one-on-one “guy” time with him.  Their affirmation and attention will help him understand how special and valuable he is.

Thanks for writing Kristina.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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