On Saturday mornings, I visit a nearby county jail. Most of the men I talk to are fathers. Some are serving short sentences and others are awaiting trials that will likely result in lengthy separations from their families. (Longer terms are served in state prisons.) Since I represent a spiritual tradition that many of these men respect, they often ask for my advice on their parenting situations.
One situation that occasionally comes up is whether it's good for the children of inmates to be told the truth of their parent's situation. For those facing long terms, I feel the answer is simple: tell the truth. If the father does end up in prison for many years, children will certainly need to know and might resent the deception.
But what about men who are going to get out of jail shortly? Are children significantly harmed by the harsh reality that their father has been punished for misdeeds against the community? Does the nature of the crime and the age of the children alter the equation?