Dear Dr. Robyn: My Dad’s in Jail

jail

Dear Dr. Robyn,

My Dad’s in jail because he broke the law and did something really dumb that I don’t even want to talk about. My Mom has to work all the time and she always cries and my little brother seems like he doesn’t want to talk to anyone not even me. He says he wants to see us and to visit him in jail but I don’t know because I’m really mad at him. I don’t trust him anymore. I don’t even know what to do please help. -Izzy

Dear Izzy,

I’m so sorry about what you’re going through. I can tell you are in great pain and it doesn’t seem at all fair. I’m glad you reached out.

When a parent goes to prison, it can feel like the entire family is being punished. You’re now living in a one-parent household with a parent who seems sad, overwhelmed and overworked. You probably are dealing with conflicting feelings. You may miss him and feel like you hate him all at the same time. You love your father but you may be frustrated by what he did, embarrassed that he broke the law, and angry or sad that he’s not at home with you and your family. You might even be thinking that your parent is “a bad person” or that you “don’t even know him anymore.”

First, remember that you don’t have to make any decision right away. You can take some time to sort out your feelings and decide what to do. Write out your feelings in a diary or talk to a friend, relative, mentor, teacher, instructor, doctor or religious confidante. When we talk or write things out, we can come to conclusions. You don’t want to bottle things up.

Second, keep doing the things you love. Spend time with friends. Stay involved with your activities like martial arts, gymnastics, and drama. Surround yourself with people you live and the people who love you. Keeping a routine, as much as you can, and spending time with supportive people who care, can help you cope during this rough time. Second, you can choose to write letters to your parent. This way, you open the lines of communication between you and your parent without seeing him until you’re ready.

Third, you can visit your parent if that is an option. Visits can help you rebuild your relationship, answer the questions you have on your mind, and work out your feelings. While visits can be stressful, they may help you to get on a path of healing.

Fourth, you can look into information and support groups that can help you through this tough time (.e. Rainbows, Family Connection Centers, Crisis Centers, Online Communities ). Talking out your frustrations and concerns with others who are going through a similar situation can make you feel less alone. You may feel like the only one going through this but you’re not–The 2004 prison population report showed that there are approximately 2.26 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons. That means a lot of families are affected. The support groups may give you the space and support you need. Encourage your family to go as well.

Fifth, remember that keeping the anger and frustration to yourself isn’t helpful to you or anyone else around you. I know that you’ve been part of a Powerful Words member school for a while now and you know that forgiveness, empathy, and anger management are all important for our health.

This may be a tall order, and you will probably never forget what your father did, but perhaps, in time, you can learn to forgive. Continue to reach out. You don’t have to do this alone. In time, and with some support and emotional digging, you’ll know what to do. Listen to your gut and ask for help when you need it.

We’ll be thinking of you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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Letters to their Helicopter Parents from their Kids: 1st of Series

child writing to his helicopter parents

Dear Dr. Robyn: Letters about My Helicopter Parents

Dr. Robyn Silverman

This week, we’re concentrating on Helicopter Parents because of the number of questions and letters I’ve received on the topic lately from our readers. The letters in this series are all taken from the comments section of one of my most popular articles; “Overprotective Parents: Helpful of Harmful?”

Again, Helicopter Parents are mothers and fathers who hover closely over their children and swoop down to do things for their children (whether their sons and daughters want the help or not) to make things easier for their children, take away pain, or alleviate stress (even when it’s part of normal development and the experience of growing up).

It’s clear that we only want the best for our daughters and sons—at any age. Of course we do! However, it’s vital that as parents we don’t alienate our children or frustrate them into a frenzy because we want to love and protect them. There is a letting go process that we must allow so that children can stand on their own two feet and grow up to be responsible adults.

In the letters this week, you will see that these young adults and teen don’t know what to do but they are certainly fed up with being treated like children. Are you feeling the same way? Or are you the parent of a teen or young adult who you are scared to let go? Either way, please read below and comment. We need to talk about this if we’re going to get anywhere.

Featured Letter #1

Dear Dr. Robyn,

Reading this article (and others like it) has led me to believe that I am actually a child of so-called “helicopter parents”.

Honestly, debilitating is a good word for it. Annoying too. I mean, I’ve actually BEGGED my parents to let me do my own laundry, but was denied because “you cant cuz everyone’s laundry is done at once” blah blah blah. I could just do the whole load was my answer and to that I get “e-eh–nawww, thats not a good Idea!” ….

As you’ll see from my site, I’m an artist, and I actually think the reason I AM is because I gained a sense of freedom from it. How I found this site was cuz I NOW feel like my parents have took THAT away from me cuz for some reason they have a giant wall devoted to my artwork now….so it feels like its something they ENCOURAGED me to do….GAHH! I wan out of this house!!!

so yeah, I agree, debilitating is a good word for it

Dr. Robyn’s answer to Rob:

Hello Rob-

First, I’ve checked out your site and can see you are a very talented person! Congrats on your great work and finding your passion.

It can be frustrating when parents want to do so much. I can hear from what you’re saying, that they clearly love you and care for you– but you are feeling smothered.

Sometimes, we just throw up our hands and say “forget it” and cave in. However, other times, we need to take more action. Remember- The only person’s behavior you are in control of is your own.

You may want to call a meeting with you and your parents and express your feelings there. NICELY. Talk about how appreciative you are of their interest and their love, but you would like to do some things that make you feel more like a responsible man rather than a child….and here are a few things you would like to do– and then discuss them. They may not fully understand why you feel you want to do the laundry– or why you want to do other things similar to that. If you clearly and nicely tell them how you’re feeling and what you would like to do, they may just open their minds.

Because we aren’t in control of other people’s behaviors, you could make some changes on your own– for example, if your parents won’t let you do your laundry in your house, take it to a laundry facility and do it there. However, I would take the “talking approach” first– sitting down with your parents and having a responsible, clear conversation– before doing this type of thing because it could come off as passive aggressive otherwise.

Hmmm. As far as the art goes– I don’t know that you’ll win that debate. The reason why? They’re proud of you. They may do it in an over-the-top way but many parents don’t acknowledge their children talents at all so at least in that sense, if you step back for a minute, you’ll see that you’re lucky. I hear you that it’s annoying– but I probably wouldn’t fight for less “pride” when it comes to your art work, and instead, focus on the other things that are bothering you when you speak to your parents. It seems that the “art wall” is really just adding fuel to the fire– but not what’s causing the fire itself. Make sense?

Let us know when you do it. Remember, these are people who love you– so be gentle but firm. Tell them what you would like to do to help you grow up into the responsible man you want to be– be clear about what you want– and appreciative and grateful for how they’ve helped you.

Good luck-
Dr. Robyn

Any other advice for Rob? Please comment below with your own questions, stories, or 2 cents.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

–clipart from Jupiter images