How honest should I be with my 4-year-old about where his dad is?

I have a four year old son, and his father has been incarcerated since he was two years old. He was in his life prior to his incarceration and planned to be when he gets out. He has two years remaining in his sentence. My son and his father speak on the phone about 2x a week. I’ve been telling him his father has been “working.” I’m having a hard time deciding if I should tell him the truth as I know it is bad to lie to children. Right now, his belief is “bad people go to jail” I don’t want him to think his father is a bad guy just that he made a bad decision. I also don’t know if he is too young for me to tell him. If you had a four-year-old in this situation, would you continue to tell him his father is working, or would you tell him his father is in jail? And what age do you think you’d tell him? Thank you


Hes too young for adult conversation and adult topics


That’s a hard one! Four is such a innocent age. He may not understand and get confused. Maybe seek a professional advice. Good luck.

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Hes 4 all u have to say is hes far away and isnt able to see him. Maybe build up to the jail thing. Or have a convo that good ppl make mistakes and go to jail and arent bad ppl. Then say thats where his dad is. Keep it simple.


They will perceive it differently because they are too young to understand it on an adult level

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I need more information. He’s doing a 4 year sentence for?


Ok, so you aren’t lying to him. His dad is working on repaying his debt to society for the bad choices he made. 4 is such tender age.


Keep it simple ,he is working


It depends on your child’s capacity of understanding. Some littles are very aware and understand at even that young. Also depends on what he did to get locked up. You don’t want to confuse the child with bad people and people who make poor decisions.


I think you should tell him :woman_shrugging:t2: He’s going to find out eventually anyway. You can break it down and tell him in a more appropriate way.
I don’t think his father being in a jail is an “adult topic and adult conversation” that’s just silly. Children are smart. They understand things just like we do.
Just be honest with him. Explain to him the good people go to jail sometimes because they made a poor decision. Use it as a learning conversation. You can teach him to make smart choices so he doesn’t go to jail.


Went through something Simi like that except he didnt want anything to do with her. I made excuse until she “found” evidence from the other side that he was talking to them from prison. She didnt speak to me for 2 months without glares or crying (she was about 5 when he left. Learned this when she was 11) honesty depends on age but every kid reacts differently hon.

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This happened to me. Stayed at my aunt/uncle’s on weekends but he was never around. Aunt told me he was working. Didn’t know he was in joliet st. Prison until i was in my 40’s!!!

When my stepsons mom went to prison I simply told him that his mom went to jail because she broke the law. When you break the law you go to jail. He asked did she cut down a tree? I said no she did something more serious than that so she had to have her consequence for her choice.

It was his level of understanding. It didn’t give more details than necessary. We raised him with knowing choices have consequences so he understood that.

It was enough for him. He didn’t care about details really.

I would tell him the truth.Its better than him finding out the truth on his own and resenting you for lieing to him. Can you take him to visit his father ? Then he can have that contact.

I have 3 kids whos father got locked up while I was prego with the youngest. The other 2 were 1 year and 7 when he got locked up. The younger 2 were told where he was when they first started asking. They were 3 and 4ish.
I explained that when adults ate naughty and make bad choices they go to time out just like kids, but its grown up time out called jail. When they asked what he did, i told them.
Just word things in a way your child can understand. My ex went to prison for theft, so i told them he took somebody elses stuff without permission.

As they got older and asked other questions, i stayed truthful and honest 100%. My boys are now 20, 13, and 12. Their dad was out for a while and is now in again. They have all let it be known that they liked i was always up front with them and didnt hide the truth. Its hard to tell your child to be honest with you when they learn that you werent honest with them. Just my opinion.
Lots of luck, def not an easy situation.

I’d leave it as it is…Hes to young in my opinion and if his dad is goung to be in his life why make him think badly of him?? Hope things work out for yous

4 is too young for that kind of truth. Telling him he is working is just fine right now. At this point it’s just a little white lie. We need those in life sometimes.


You need to sit and example buy being honest with your child. If he was told the truth in the beginning .You wouldn’t be having this conversation. Now you have to backstop and tell him the truth . 8 think you learned a hard lesson. Hey! Children don’t come with instructions. We have to learn alone the way

Continue with the “working” story for now. When he is older and dad is home, you can explain and answer any questions he may have. I feel at 4, telling the whole truth would be too much to comprehend.


He’s too young to understand…

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