How do children deal with it when a parent has to go to prison?

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How do children deal with it when a parent has to go to prison?

On April 29, former tennis player Boris Becker was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Immediately after the verdict was announced, the 54-year-old had to begin his prison sentence. Contentment changes not only the life of the former athlete, but the lives of his children as well. The older children Noah, 28, Elias, 22, and Anna, 22, have been following the procedure for the past few weeks. His 12-year-old son Amadeus did not know anything about his father’s prison sentence, at least immediately after the sentencing, Lily Baker said in an interview with RTL. This is said to have changed in the meantime, Bild newspaper reported.

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Psychology graduate Dr. Stefan Rucker is mainly critical of concealing life-changing facts: “The boy should have been carefully prepared a few weeks ago for the imminent threat of imprisonment,” the expert told the German editorial network.

Psychologist Dr. Stephen Roecker

The father is absent as a male reference

According to Roker, the fact that a father suddenly leaves his child’s life can be very stressful. “However, you have to look at it differently, it depends on the mental resilience of the child and the relationship between father and son,” stresses the psychiatrist. “In the case of a close relationship, the father fails as an educational resource and, of course, as a male role model during puberty.” This can lead to discomfort, especially at this stage of formative development. In addition, the imprisonment of a relative usually casts a stigma on one’s self-esteem. Nobody wants to hear, “Ah, you son of a warden!”

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Boris Becker with his sons Noah (left) and Elias Becker at the Laureus World Sports Awards in February 2020 at Verti Music Hall in Berlin.

Boris Becker with his sons Noah (left) and Elias Becker at the Laureus World Sports Awards in February 2020 at Verti Music Hall in Berlin.

The type of offense a parent is convicted of also has an impact on the children’s later lives. Boris Becker had to respond in court for charges of tax evasion and delaying bankruptcy, among other things. “With such a crime, it is not inconceivable that children will be lost later, for example in work and business life, due to the father’s financial misconduct. With a story like this, there are always some flaws,” Rucker explains.

Anna Ermakova is the only daughter of Boris Becker.

Anna Ermakova is the only daughter of Boris Becker.

Expert: Social friendships between children and celebrity status are formed at an early age

The media attention that Boris Becker’s case has received around the world in recent weeks also plays a major role in the handling of events. Dr. Stefan Rücker explains: “Children of parents who are in the public eye are accustomed to dealing with their parents’ fame. In this case, the boy grew up with her, so he socialized with famous parents.” According to the expert, these children will learn relatively early to categorize headlines about Their parents are on TV or tabloids. “However, it is still a subject of shame,” Rucker confirms. “The feeling of constant observation in public and perhaps reduced to a father’s imprisonment can, in extreme cases, provoke social anxiety in children and young people who tend to withdraw, so that those affected hardly want to go outside” This is also part of the fear of being harassed or stigmatized in social environment or at school.

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Boris Becker, ex-wife of Lily and son of Amadeus 2016 at the World Celebrity Pro-Am 2016 Mission Hills China Golf in China.

Boris Becker, ex-wife of Lily and son of Amadeus 2016 at the World Celebrity Pro-Am 2016 Mission Hills China Golf in China.

According to Roker, how well children cope with a parent’s imprisonment “depends on the reaction of those around them and on their ability to cope.” According to Roker, the age of children also makes a big difference. Older children experience media coverage more intensely, but they may find support in their circle of friends and comfort and support in their families or in their own partnerships. All this helps to overcome shame and participate in life again.”

The psychologist assures that in the case of 12-year-old Amadeus, it is now especially important to protect him from the public as much as possible until the hustle and bustle around the family subsides. “It’s fine for friends or classmates to say, ‘I heard that from your father, but no matter what, we’re still friends. This would be a great reaction to support the young child.” The mother should also create opportunities for communication between father and son to give the latter a sense of security. “The child has to have a comfortable experience that Dad is not out of the world, but he is not there at the moment and he will be back. This way you can improve the experience.”

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