caregiver, there are several things you can do to help children deal with the holidays when one or both of their parents are incarcerated. With love and support, the children you care about can get through the holidays.
The Angel Tree Program
The Angel Tree Program is a prison fellowship that helps connect incarcerated parents with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts in the parents’ names. Typically, local church volunteers purchase and deliver gifts. However, you can do this on your own, too – and it’s best if you communicate with the parent before you shop so you’re all on the same page.
Organizing Extra Visits
If it’s possible – and if the child wants to – it may be a good idea to schedule a few extra visits to the incarcerated parent during the holidays. Holidays can bring on a wide range of big feelings, so it’s best to respect the child’s wishes… but if those wishes are to spend time with the parent, it may be extremely beneficial for the child you care for.
Ask the Child for Input
When a parent is incarcerated, so many things are outside the family’s control. Capitalize on what you and the child can control by asking the child for input on everything you can, like starting new family traditions or strengthening old ones. Draw pictures of Thanksgiving dinner, make a new ornament that symbolizes the child’s absent parent, or anything that helps the child feel more connected with his or her mom or dad who’s away.
Your Presence Matters
Sometimes it helps to explain to children that many kids spend the holidays with just one parent, and for various reasons. In some cases, a parent is in the hospital, in the military, or even simply living in another state. It’s important to focus on the positive aspects of each holiday – and that includes the bond you share with the child. Your presence matters… a lot. Let the child you care about know how much he or she matters to you, too, because that can go a long way to soothe the hurt that little one is feeling during the holiday season.
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