The short-term and long-term effects of getting arrested don’t just end with you – these consequences can be hard on your family, too. An arrest or conviction can put an emotional strain on your relationship and sometimes place more hardship and responsibility on your partner or spouse. For your children, your arrest or conviction can quickly lead to confusion or fear about what might happen next.
Telling your children about your arrest is an incredibly difficult and personal decision to make, but it’s also an important step in making the necessary amends to get back on track afterward. As a parent, you may instinctively think that hiding or keeping an arrest from them is a way to protect them, however, hiding things from them may cause much more harm than good.
Here’s how you can prepare for telling your children about an arrest or conviction.
1. Stick with simple facts and age-appropriate details.
When explaining an arrest to your children, it’s important to remember to keep it simple and age appropriate. You won’t need to share all of the intricate details of your arrest with your children in order to help them understand. There may be things that are better left unsaid, especially for children of a younger age. It is also important at this stage to be honest with your children regarding your arrest. It may also be a good time to remind your children that just because someone is arrested, it does NOT mean that they did anything wrong. You are still innocent, and folks are wrongfully accused on a regular basis.
2. Schedule time to talk about the situation.
Setting aside a scheduled block of time for discussion will enable everyone to focus without distractions and may help emphasize the seriousness of the situation. It also allows ample time for follow-up questions and further explanation. This is especially important for many adolescents, especially teenagers because it gives them a dedicated block of time to understand and cope with the situation.
3. Allow them to talk with someone else about the situation.
In any situation, talking to someone else about something tends to help us clarify our thoughts and feelings – and it generally makes us feel better. This is equally true for children. Whether it’s a counselor, a therapist, or an adult family member or family friend, providing your children with the opportunity to speak to someone else can encourage them to open up about their feelings, their thoughts, and ask questions they may be afraid to ask you. Ask your lawyer if they will talk with your child about the situation, in generic terms. While some lawyers may balk at doing so, it is important to remember that a lawyer is not just your advocate, but also a counselor.
4. Be prepared to provide them with what they need.
Our backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences lead us to handle situations differently from others. This is no different for children. You should be prepared to provide them with what they need to better understand and cope with the situation. This could mean providing them with space or giving them extra comfort or emotional support during this time. Be attentive and after they’ve had time to process things and ask them what they need during this time.
Your child’s age and understanding of the situation will play a large role in the impact a parent’s arrest will have on them. Many feelings and questions may arise, even if it’s not immediately after you explain the situation to them. Above all, it’s important to help your children understand and work through their feelings at this time.
Facing an arrest or conviction is an incredibly difficult situation for you and your family to deal with. It’s important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your rights and help you navigate through the process.