Ask AF: A Difficult Reality

AF explains how to navigate the tough discussion about an incarcerated birth mother, and whether to stay in contact.

Q: We used to have a good relationship with our son’s birth mother, but haven’t heard from her since he was two. He’s now nine. I recently searched for her online, and learned that she’s in jail. Should I send her a letter? We’ve always been honest with our son, but I don’t know how to handle this information.

A:  At nine, a child may be too young to know that his birth mother is in jail. If your son asks, and you think hes mature enough, you could share the information by saying that you don’t know what she did, but when someone breaks the law, they have to be punished, just as he is when he breaks a rule.

If you decide not to share that big piece of information now, you can still initiate a conversation. Say that you’ve been thinking about his birth mother a lot recently, has he? What would he like to know? As to writing to her, be aware that she may be embarrassed that she is in jail, and not want you and your/her son to know. I would write only if your son wants you to try to contact her again. If so, let her know of his interest in her and how you located her. If she declines contact, respect her wishes. Your son can write letters that you save for the time when she may be more receptive.

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