"I was about 5 when the police raided my house"
"My parents were drug users. When they weren't using, they were great but when they were high, I had to take care of my brother and sister. I was about 5 when the police raided my house and arrested my parents.
"My dad has been in and out of prison for most of my life. He's due to be released later this year. My mum has been in prison a few times and she's currently in an open prison.
"When I was younger, my mum took my brother and I to visit my dad in prison.
"It was a huge, cold, grey hall and in one corner there were some toys - a 'children's area'. My brother would start getting bored and cry and I'd start complaining to my mum.
"My dad would get angry and say we don't visit enough, the guards would come and tell us all to be quiet and I'd start screaming louder and eventually we'd have to leave. I didn't see my dad until years later when I visited him in prison again.
"This was a horrible experience. Just getting into the prison is such an invasive process - you feel like a criminal being judged and questioned. On all 3 occasions we ended up arguing and I ended up feeling like I'd wasted the day. He was never in contact with us when he was in prison unless he wanted something.
"My mum wrote to us every week while she was in prison with extra cards for birthdays, Christmas and Easter. I never wrote back because I was angry. Over the past couple of years I started having regular contact with her until she went to prison again.
"At that point I said I was done with her, but my sister wanted to see her. I had to quickly start to hide my anger because I didn't want my brother or sister to hurt as much as me.
"I often found myself lecturing my mum or discussing with my grandma about what we're going to do when she gets out. I think the fact that she's in a great prison helps. It's open and they support you in getting a job. This is the first time she's had a job in about 15 years and when she got it I remember being proud in the same way I was proud of my sister for getting her first job.
"I didn't tell anyone that my parents were in prison when I was younger and still do my best not to tell people. I find it embarrassing and worry about how people might perceive me.
"While I was at university there was a lot of time that I was struggling to balance academic work, job and family commitments. When I got my dissertation mark back I was really disappointed and went to see my course administrator and explained some of the things that had happened, like my mum and dad being in prison.
"She was absolutely horrified that I hadn't got any help or spoken to anyone sooner. I think a big part was because I was embarrassed and didn't want to mark myself as different, but I also think I hadn't realised just how big a deal someone, who hadn't dealt with people they know going to prison, would find it.
"If you have parents who are in prison I would find someone you can talk to - I'm lucky I have my grandma. It is so important you have someone, even if it's just one person to share all the different feelings and stages you'll go through. Also allow yourself the space and time to be affected by it all - this doesn't mean you're weak or can't cope.
"If you do decide to tell people and they don't react how you'd hoped, don't get angry immediately - a lot of people won't know anything about prison so they'll have no idea how to react. It's okay for you to step away from it sometimes, or not think about it and do other things. If you need time away from them to process things and decide how you feel, before you start to deal with how they feel, again this is totally okay.
"You also need to recognise, as do your parents, that prison doesn't just affect them - it affects you too. You need to look after yourself because sometimes your parents can't."
if you're worried about something
You're not alone. You can get support by:
- speaking to a counsellor on the phone, in a 1-2-1 counsellor chat or by email
- speaking to other young people on the message boards
- reading letters from young people on Ask Sam or writing one yourself
- using the Art box - sometimes it helps to express how you feel
- creating an account with us and using the mood tracker to see how your mood changes over time.