Single Mom, Dad Is in Prison

How should I respond to my son's questions about his dad, a convicted felon who is serving a long prison sentence? We're living with my parents until I can raise enough money to move out. He has some great role models in my father and my brothers, but I'm worried that he will somehow end up identifying with his dad's example.

Your son is blessed to have a mom who loves him so much. Our initial reaction to your message is simply to commend you on your obvious concern for his well-being and encourage you to keep moving in this same positive direction. As he grows, cultivate an awareness of his inclinations and interests, compliment him on his positive attributes and affirm him for who he is: a unique and special creation of his Heavenly Father.

When he asks questions about his dad, be honest with him. Explain that his father did some bad things in the past and that he had to be punished for them. Above all, make sure he understands that his father is absent because of his own mistakes, not because of anything your son did. Children often have a tendency to assume the blame for any kind of brokenness in the family structure. Tell him that it’s okay to be sad about not having a dad. Sometimes he might even feel angry about it. This is only natural. But you should also help him grasp the point that God doesn’t want us to hold grudges against anybody. It saddens God when we become bitter against other people, and resentment only hurts the person who nurtures it.

If the day comes when your ex-spouse wants to make contact with your son, it will be up to you to decide whether that’s in your child’s best interest or not. And the determining factor will be Dad’s attitude. If he’s truly repentant for the crimes he committed and his lack of involvement in your son’s life, you may want to explore the possibility of restoring and rebuilding the relationship. If not, it’s probably best to keep your distance. Meanwhile, it’s encouraging to know that your son has been blessed with so many other positive male role models. We hope his grandfather and uncles realize the importance of the responsibility they’ve been granted. As your son grows, encourage these men to spend special one-on-one “guy” time with him. Their affirmation and attention will give your boy a deeper sense of how special and valuable he is. If they are Christians, they can also share God’s love with him, helping him to understand that while his earthly father may not be around, his Heavenly Father will never leave him or forsake him.

If you have further questions or would like to discuss these ideas with a member of our staff, call our Counseling department. Our counselors would be more than happy to serve you in any way they can. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified child and family therapists in your area who can help you work through your concerns in greater depth.


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