Talking To Your Child About Your Immigration Case 

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In 2009, I started receiving requests for hardship evaluations and had no idea what they were for or what exactly I needed to evaluate in order to provide helpful documentation for someone’s immigration case. Since then, I have successfully completed many evaluations and learned a thing or two about them, with the help of several attorneys who have guided me along the way. The majority of people that request these evaluations have children and I have been asked countless times about how much to tell their kids and how to tell them what they are going through. Many times they have told them nothing at all. The thing is that whether you have told them the specifics or not, your kids know that something is going on. Children are smart and they pick up on non-verbal communication way better than we give them credit for. So they may not know if you are just stressed at work, or having marital problems, or if you are sick and not telling them…but there’s a good chance they know something is going on! 

I’m not one to say what is best for you and your family. People come to me because of my education, license, and experience in family therapy and family systems but what I have learned is that every family is uniquely different and what works for mine most likely would not work for yours and vice versa. So, instead of telling you exactly what to tell your children, I will give a few things to think about: 

1. Have your kids asked you what was wrong or told you that you seem stressed or grouchy? 

2. Have you had to lock yourselves in a room to discuss “adult things”, separating you from your kids? 

3. Have you noticed a change in your children’s behavior since you started this immigration case? 

4. Have you found yourself telling family members and friends not to say anything about the case in front of your children? 

 

If you have answered “yes” to some of these questions, you and your spouse may want to consider speaking to your children about this case. Just reading that may cause you some anxiety wondering how you would do that without scaring (or traumatizing) your children. Below you will find several points to consider when deciding what to share and how to share it. 

1. It is important to consider your child’s age and maturity level. Some children are young but able to handle more than a child his/her age. In assessing your child’s maturity level, you might want to consider how you are able to reason with them when discussing a difficult situation or critiquing them. Do they listen and talk it through with you, allowing you to come to a mutual understanding as to how it might be best to approach a particular problem in the future? 

2. It is important to consider what value comes from telling your child about the immigration case. What would you like for him/her to gain from knowing? It may or may not be best to share only basic information about what you are working on and why it is beneficial. Either way, this is something that would be best to discuss with your spouse in order to make the best decision. 

3. How far are you in the process? Depending on whether you are early on in the process or close to the end will help you and your spouse decide how much you want to share with your child. Including your child and letting him/her know a little bit at a time is usually ideal as it gives them time to digest the information and get used to it before having to break the more difficult news to them. 

 

Of all the information that I have provided so far, none is as important is what I am about to share so be sure to read this to the end. 

The MOST important part of talking to your child about this immigration case is how you handle it afterwards. 

When you share this difficult piece of information, no matter how much or how little you decide to share, your child will need your love and support to know that everything is going to be okay. You know best the ways that you can provide this support to them. It might mean making sure that you have family time more often or just sitting with him/her while watching TV but no matter how you decide to do it, showing your child that you are there for them is the absolute most important part of this entire process. It is vital that your child know that you are there for them during this time of the unknown and no matter how the case ends up. And the only way that he/she feel secure is in the way that you handle it right now

Being a therapist, I can’t help but end this with some homework like I do with all of my sessions.  My challenge for you is to pay close attention to the things that you do to show your child that you are there for him/her and to do it double and triple the amount that you have been in the past. After all, this case will come to a close but what will last is the relationship that you have built and strengthened with your child through the process! 

Cecilia Briseno