How can I explain to my daughter that her dad went to prison?

Looking for advice! How do you explain to a five year old girl that her dad, whom she thinks hung the moon and he played an active role in her life, that he got sentenced to 9 years in prison?


Be open and honest. Always the best way. Harder yes, but better in the long run.

Be honest & explain that he didn’t make good choices & he got in trouble & now he has to face the consequences for his actions.

Perfect opportunity to instill punishment and consequences

She needs to know the truth at a level she can understand so she doesn’t think he abandoned her. Reassure her it has nothing to do with her and he still loves her and misses her. She may need counseling as well as it may affect her in ways you don’t realize at first. I’m sorry she’s going through this :pleading_face:

The truth. That’s all you can do . Prayers for your baby :pray:t2:

I told my kids that their dad was in grown up time out for breaking the rules. It actually worked really well


Well the truth, and make sure she can still be active with him.
Letters/visits etc.
He doesn’t have to be “gone”.
Good luck mama

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My kids dad went away when my daughters were 5 and 6… Be honest and not too detailed. Get her in counseling/ play therapy. Explain dad made a mistake. Taking my kids to a prison to see him was not the highlight of their childhood for them but them seeing him and knowing where he was and that he was ok made a big difference. There isn’t one right answer and every situation is different. Be her safe place. Hugs momma. :white_heart: Time goes by faster than you can even imagine and this will be behind you even though it probably feels unbearable now. Please reach out if you need to talk. :orange_heart:


Be honest! As a mom to a child in prison I know! Let them know this does not make dad a bad person, just dad made bad choices. He can have phone time and letters. I tried to cover up the fact year’s ago with a grandchild and he was devastated when he learned the truth. He was also upset with me for not being truthful. Please learn from my mistakes.

Just tell her what a five year old can comprehend. I hope she can visit him. She can learn to write letters. She can also send her school pictures. Just make it a learning experience for her. 

This is tough. I have no advice just giving you and your daughter a hug through fb.

I agree with the others,tell her the truth but in a gentle way that she can understand,she’ll have questions,and they’ll probably be hard questions.Be prepared for tears and more questions as time goes on.If your ok with visits and phone calls encourage that.Let her write/dictate letters,its going to be hard especially since its 9 years.Remind her frequently that it wasn’t anything she done because she will think that(I speak from experience).She will act out and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to think about counseling in the future.


I suppose it depends on if she will be visiting him? If she will be, just be open and honest. Otherwise maybe wait until she is a little older. Withholding that information at this age is okay. If you decide to talk to her about it just be prepared for questions. My dad was in prison and I was that little girl. I visited and wrote letters. Getting letters in the mail was honestly the best thing in the world to me.

You need to tell her the truth. In a gentle way, in a nice way. I’ve been where you are and tried the lies at the start and in the end it came out and it was double the pain. First time when was always away n didn’t know why and the second when they knew.

I don’t really have an answer but I’ll explain how I felt at 8 seeing my dad get arrested and visiting him in jail. It was hard to truly grasp. I didn’t understand why he was behind the glass and why I couldn’t hug him. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t able to see him. I didn’t know what I as a child did wrong to deserve my dad being taken away. Obviously I hadn’t done anything but that’s just how we as children think. With that being said as a mom I would probably try and sit down with her when she’s mentally mature enough and explain things to her better. Make sure she knows it isn’t HER fault her dad isn’t around. Care for her and love her and do whatever you can to make sure she knows she’s loved by both you and her dad. People make mistakes. That doesn’t make them bad people.

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I would just say he made some bad choices and now is facing the consequences. You don’t have to tell her exactly what it is right now at five. Maybe he can write her letters and with your help she can write him back.
I would not lie to her because when she finds out the truth that’s going to hurt her even more.

There’s books to help, and sesame st does an episode on it on YouTube. I had my son watch that when his step-dad went in 2019.


My dad went to prison when I was 2 and didn’t get out till I was 15. Honestly just tell her the truth or that daddy went awhile for a little while and that he still loves her while she is young and As she gets older maybe tell her the truth. Kids are resilient. She will ask questions , she will be curious, just be honest but maybe not too detailed. I remember seeing my dad in prison and visiting him when he would move to county and even though I didn’t have a “normal” dad growing up I am glad I got to write him letters and see him when I could, it allowed me to continue to relationship with him.


Let her know her dad had to go away for awhile because he made some bad choices and so he cannot be there. He loves her and it has nothing to do with her, you want to avoid abandonment issues,


My dad was in prison from the time I was 3 till I turned 18. As a little girl the he’s in timeout method worked best as she gets older let her know the truth. Visits cards letters and calls cherish them.

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I would tell her daddy loves you but he’s not made good decisions so he’s been takin away and He will be back one day soon


The truth. He made bad decisions and in time out for awhile lol.

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Guess who’s gonna be on love during lock up???

Just tell her the true using simply vocabulary.
Your daddy did something that he was not supposed to do and he is kind of grounded, they have to stay in this place for a while as a punishment , they will teach him how to correct what he did to be a better person when he gets out .

As a daughter of a dad that’s been in and out of jail my whole life. Be honest with her. Daddy made a mistake and got put in timeout. That’s the explanation I got when i was younger. There’s always phone calls and letters (I still have a treasure chest full of pictures he drew me) Just because he’s locked up doesn’t mean he can’t be active in her life still.


My daughter is 9 now and is very close to her dad he is always in and out for a few years at a time I told her when she was 5 that he was away working. Now she knows where he is and why just be honest that he won’t be around for abit x

Just tell her. Bad things happen when people make bad choices, it doesn’t mean they are bad people. kids understand more than we give them credit for.

Honesty is always the best policy. Daddy made a huge mistake and he got in trouble. The judge says he has to go to jail. We can see him (or not). He still loves you very much, but he has to be away for awhile.


If you don’t tell her anything or that he just went away, she will think he doesn’t love her or she isn’t important. I went through this with my daughter’s bio dad when she was around the same age as your daughter. I did use the time out method explained above. I didn’t say he did a really bad thing though. I simply told her that grown ups have rules to follow and if they don’t follow those rules they get put in grown up time out and sometimes its for a long time. I waited a while to tell her and when I did she actually said that’s good because she thought he just didn’t want to see her anymore and was staying away because of her. Encourage her to draw pictures and write noyes to him(even if you aren’t sending them) and I wouldn’t recommend taking her to see him behind bars. Even if the visita are open and not through glass, the inmates can’t touch or hold the child so that might be more harmful than good. Best of luck and hugs to you and your daughter. It’s a hard conversation to have!


I wouldnt personally…my father of my kid also got into trouble. I told her he moved away for work. I dont think if she thinks good of him…to not let her realise where he is…yet.

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Be up front with her . Otherwise she will think he doesn’t love her because he never came to see her those 9 years.

Idk if y’all use “time out” for the kid but Daddy is in “time out for a long time” because he did something really bad, explain as much as you can.

Been there…my daughter is 15 now…he went in 8 years ago and was in before that as well …he will be out when she is 17. Tell her the truth but Mabey instead of the reason just say daddy made some poor choices. Me personally always let her know that he l9ves her and she was always allowed to send him pictures (notes) whenever and if she wanted to…she didnt…she now has her own views and sees the real truth…its soo very hard and sad I know but you be the best for her and that’s all that matters. Hopefully he will stay in contact with her through letters as well…mine didn’t so there isn’t any relationship there and she has so much animosity toward the situation… hang in there mama :heart:

You tell her the truth, if you don’t when she gets older she will resent you for lieing to her…

My dad is in prison right now… so that’s my daughters’ grandpa… and they love him to death. My daughters are 4 and 5. I told them the truth. That he broke the law too many times and what he did wasn’t right… he had 3 duis within a one year span… he’s a life long alcoholic. Great guy but he has a problem. I just told them the truth. And I let my step mom take them to visit him in jail, because he might be in there for awhile.

She’s 5 you don’t :woman_facepalming: dont break your child like these people are saying…tell her that he loves her very much and that he went away for a little bit. If you plan to take her to see him tell her that but don’t hurt your child over his mistakes at 5 years old


That’s easy. You don’t! There will be a time and place for that when she’s older. Even if you explain it to her ( which will just break her tiny fragile heart) she will not understand, and may even create some resentment for him ( she will think it’s her fault). As of right now all she needs to know is that her daddy loves her very much and is helping a troubled friend out of state ( which is why he can only call or send letters). She will get to an age that she will realize where the letters and calls are coming from. At that point let her know that everyone makes mistakes :slight_smile:

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Just flat out tell her. Don’t lie because she’ll resent that

I would tell my child the truth and leave out any gruesome details if any

If you can access “Stories for Free Children” book or as individual stories online, they tackle all the difficult subjects.

Honestly, don’t lie to her.


She’s going to need a therapist. 9years is a lot of abandonment feeling to work on. She may have a lot of anger towards everyone involved. Fears that she may struggle to verbalize. She may deal with bullying at school.

I’m a great believer in telling children the truth. Why tell them lies are naughty then lie to them. Theres bound to be help available at the prison …maybe books or family support who can suggest ways to explain. Children can be cruel. If you don’t tell her a child at school will say something. She’ll find out you lied and it will destroy your relationship.

I have a daughter who is almost the same age, I wouldn’t tell her at this age. I’d stick to “right now daddy can only call us and send letters” in the 9 years he’s gone there will be the right time to tell her, but imo age 5 is not that time or age.


Don’t… she’s to young to have that image in her head. She’s 5… I would say your Dad loves you. Your Dads off dealing with some things and can’t see you for a while. Leave it at that. The older she gets like then tell her the full truth this isn’t lying. Let her be a child please.


I wentt to the library got a kids book. Called The night dad went to jail

There is a couple prison mom Facebook pages who might be able to help you some as well.

We had to do this with my grandaughter and it made things better for her. We have 3 rules no lying, cheating or stealing. We explained daddy broke the rules he stole and lied so no he can’t come home until the judge tells him he can. She understood that. In my opinion Kids should not go to visit in prison but phone calls are good

My father is in prison. The way I’ve always explained to my two kids (one knew him before going and the other doesn’t know him outside of prison) is that when kids get in trouble they go to time out in their room or wherever you do time out but as an adult when we get in trouble we have to go to a different place than our home for time out. We don’t call it prison we call it time out so they never feel guilty or ashamed they have a family member there. Bless you and her on this new normal.

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Daddy got into some adult trouble and he’s gonna be grounded to his new room for a long long time so even though you can’t go see him for a while you can write and draw daddy pictures and talk to him on the phone sometimes no matter what Happens Daddy loves you very very much to the best of his ability

It’s like a time out for adults. Dads grounded and been given time to think about the consequences of his actions.

My daughter’s dad is currently in prison for the 3rd time in her life. The first time I lied and said he was away but I told him that if it happened again I would be telling the truth. This time he really messed up and is in for 16 years. She is 9 years old and knows the truth. It suxks to break their hearts with the truth but the truth is better