(RNN) - With the highest incarceration rate in the world, nearly 2 million children in the U.S. have a parent behind bars. In response, Sesame Street has designed an online kit to help children deal with the emotional problems of having incarcerated parents.
The kit is targeted towards children between 3 and 8 years of age.
"The incarceration of a loved one can be very overwhelming for both children and caregivers," the kit's website says. "It can bring about big changes and transitions. In simple everyday ways, you can comfort your child and guide her through these tough moments. With your love and support she can get through anything that comes her way."
To help with those issues, the kit offers videos that act out scenarios kids might relate to, such as a child admitting to his friends that his father is in prison; tips for parents and caregivers to handle the emotional stress kids face; activity workbooks for kids that can be printed out; audio playlists with happy songs; and mobile phone apps for both iPhone and Android.
The caregiver tips are based on handling the loneliness, insecurity, and confusion kids with incarcerated parents can face, especially when they visit their incarcerated parent.
"Before you visit your incarcerated loved one," the kit says, "let your child know some of the things she can expect to happen. For instance, ‘We won't be able to sit in the same room with Mommy, but we can see her through a window and read a story together.'"
Incarceration has risen dramatically over the past 30 years. And between 1991 and 2007 the number of children with a father in prison increased from 881,500 to more than 1.5 million, a 77 percent increase, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. During that same time, the number of children with a mother in prison increased by 131 percent, from 63,900 to 147,400.
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