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by Abigail Van Buren

Mother Struggles to Tell Kids That Dad's 'Trip' Was to Jail

DEAR ABBY: I would appreciate your advice on a problem that has been a nightmare for me. My husband is in prison. He will be serving time for the next 10 to 15 years for a crime he did not commit. My biggest problem has been how to deal with our two children, who are 6 and 8.

They have been very close to their father, and for the past year, they have sort of "accepted" his absence because I told them he's away on a business trip and will be home soon. They talk to him on the phone once a week. I am now considering going back to my country with the kids where I'll be closer to my family and friends.

Should I tell my kids that their dad can't come with us because he can't leave his business? Or should I tell them the truth?

I fear they will be unable to handle the truth at their ages. They think prison is a place for "bad" people, and I'm afraid it will kill them to find out that's where their dad is. Also, what will they say to their classmates if others ask them, "Where is your father?"

My instinct is to hold off until my kids are old enough to handle the situation. But if I wait, will they resent me for not telling them sooner? If I lie to our kids, I couldn't bring them with me to visit their father.

I love my husband very much and have to deal with this pain, too. But deceiving my children is the deepest hurt of all. Please don't print my real name if you put this in your column. -- A CANADIAN READER

DEAR CANADIAN READER: To quote Sir Walter Scott, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" I urge you to tell your children that their father has been sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.