Ministering to Kids Whose Parents Are in Prison

A recent report from Pew Charitable Trusts found that 1 in every 28 children have a parent behind bars.

“Sesame Street” is reaching out to kids whose parents are serving jail time.

The popular children’s television series has introduced a new muppet named Alex as a way to talk about the stigma of having a parent in jail.

“I just miss him so much,” the fuzzy blue-haired muppet says of his locked-up dad, adding, “Sometimes I just feel like I want to pound on a pillow and scream as loud as I can.”

The videos show Alex telling his friends that his dad won’t be able to help him build a toy car.  When they ask him why his father is not around, he says he doesn’t want to talk about it.  Later, his friends ask him what’s wrong.

“My dad’s in jail,” he says haltingly, adding, “I don’t like to talk about it. Most people don’t understand.”

Below is a clip.

A few weeks ago at our church, a little boy was brought out of his classroom.  Why?  He was banging his head against the wall repeatedly.  When the teacher tried to help him, he ran to the corner, curled up, and began to cry.

They brought him to the office area.  He wanted nothing to do with me.  He wouldn't talk with me.  In fact, he began kicking me and then turned and buried his face against the wall.  I tried talking to him for 10 minutes...asking what was wrong...asking if he had a pet...asking if he had a favorite movie or response.

Finally, I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of bubbles.  I blew a few bubbles and finally...he turned and looked at me.  I asked if he'd like to go out and blow bubbles for the kids as they walked into the chapel room.  He nodded yes.  Slowly, as he blew the bubbles, he began to open up.  I even got a smile out of him.

Once the kids got in the chapel room, I asked if he wanted to go in and sit with me in the back.  He agreed.  As the kids begin to sing, I watched him begin to join in.  He even listened closely to the lesson and followed along with the motions the teacher asked the kids to make as she had them act out the Bible story.

After chapel time, the kids all went back to their classrooms.  I asked if he wanted to go back to class or stay and play in the indoor park.  He chose the park.  And that’s okay.

You see...that day...he didn't need to be in a classroom.  He just needed to play.  More smiles.  And then some laughter.  I stayed with him for the rest of the service in the park and simply let him be a little boy who needed to have some fun.

Service ended.  Mom came.  As we privately shared what he had been banging his head against the wall in the room...she broke down and begin to weep.

Through her tears, she shared that his father had just been sent to prison that week.  I had felt in my heart there was a reason he was acting out...and now it was confirmed.

We prayed with mom and spoke words of encouragement into her life.  The little boy hugged us and we told him to come back next week...we needed help blowing more bubbles.

Do you have children in your ministry whose parents are in prison?
How do you minister to children whose parents are in prison?
Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.