Coping Strategies

  • First and foremost, don’t blame yourself. You are not responsible for the actions of your loved one.
  • Follow through on your own personal goals. Don’t put your personal well being on hold. Even though it is hard, your life has to go on.
  • Find a balance in your caregiving and family responsibilities. Don’t focus all of your energy on the incarcerated family member.
  • Set financial and emotional limits with your loved one and set them early. Phone calls, visits and financial support for your loved one can easily get out of hand. Decide what you have time and finances for and stick to those limits.
  • Find close friends or family members that you can turn to for support and understanding. Choose people you can talk to in confidence.
  • Take advantage of community support groups such as Virginia C.U.R.E., Al-Anon or Families Anonymous to gain support from others and learn ways of coping.
  • Continue with family routines and traditions. Celebrate holidays and find creative ways to involve your loved one.
  • Don’t hold on to unnecessary obligations or responsibilities for your incarcerated loved one. If it’s something that adds undo burden on you, let it go.
  • If you are feeling controlled or manipulated by your loved one, understand that he or she is acting out of fear of losing you. Talk about these fears and provide reassurance.
  • Some of the most stressful times for your family will be right after arrest, transfer to a new facility, parole interviews and release. Be prepared. Talk about your concerns and fears openly and honestly. Try to have a back up plan in case things don’t work out the way you would like.
  • Media images of prison life can cause unwarranted fear for the well being of your loved one. Generally, life is only dangerous for those inmates who continue to make poor decisions for themselves and who they associate with on the inside.  Try to avoid subjecting yourself to media images that cause a fear response.