Supporting Children with parents in prison

Having a parent or carer in prison can leave children experiencing a range of emotions. When a parent goes to prison, it can have a devastating effect on the family that are left behind. This can have an impact on a child’s mental health, social behaviour, and educational prospects. The emotional trauma that may occur and the practical difficulties of a disrupted family life can be compounded by the social stigma that children may face. Children can feel isolated and ashamed - and most feel unable to talk about it because they're scared of being bullied. Whatever the reason their parent is in prison, it is important the child understands it is not their fault and they are encouraged to express their emotions in a controlled way and to talk things through with you as much as possible.

Common feelings experienced by children:

  • miss their parent and want them back
  • confused, shocked or angry
  • betrayed, guilty or embarrassed
  • lonely, upset or depressed
  • Worried about them coming back or about the future.

When a parent goes to prison, things can often change at home – sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse. The parent that is in prison may feel as though they are the ones left in a difficult position but unfortunately the pressure put upon the parent that is left to care for the family is immense. The stress can lead to tension with more arguments and fighting in the family home. This can be a really difficult time. If you are in this situation, you may be feeling very emotional and going through what may be likened to grief. You are likely to be left wondering how you are going to cope with the daily chores and manage family life. You may have questions around finances, talking to the children, informing relevant authorities, practical issues, etc.  It is important to seek advice on much of this and know that there is support out there for you.

When visiting a parent in prison remember it is your choice if you want to allow your child to see them.  For the parent who is in prison, they often cannot see how their sentence impacts on their family.  Further, some incarcerated parents face termination of parental rights because their children have been in the foster care system beyond the time allowed by law or have questions about child support. These children require support from local authority systems to serve their needs.

Finding support

There are many organisations and charities that can support you through this time and there is help available for the parent in prison through various projects.

Offenders Families helpline

Family Lives

Children Heard and Seen

Prison Fellowship



St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls

Pound Street

Carshalton Surrey


T: 020 8642 2025


For general enquiries please mail:

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.