“Staying together for the children,” my personal pet peeve. If you want to benefit your children – show them how one gets divorced with grace, dignity, generosity, and resilience. The WAY people handle their divorces is what will influence their families for generations. When you have an opportunity, I recommend the Childrens’ Bill of Rights, below. I frequently have my clients hang one on mom’s fridge & one on dad’s fridge.
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CHILDREN’S BILL OF RIGHTS
– Every kid has rights, particularly when mom and dad are splitting up. Below are some things parents shouldn’t forget – and kids shouldn’t let them – when the family is in the midst of a break-up.
– You have the right to love both your parents. You also have the right to be loved by both of them. That means you shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to see your dad or your mom at any time. It’s important for you to have both parents in your life, particularly during difficult times such as a break-up of your parents.
– You do not have to choose one parent over the other. If you have an opinion about which parent you want to live with, let it be known. But nobody can force you to make that choice. If your parents can’t work it out, a judge may make the decision for them.
– You’re entitled to all the feelings you’re having. Don’t be embarrassed by what you’re feeling. It is scary when your parents break up, and you’re allowed to be scared. Or angry. Or Sad. Or whatever.
– You have the right to be in a safe environment. This means that nobody is allowed to put you in danger, either physically or emotionally. If one of your parents is hurting you, tell someone – either your other parent or a trusted adult like a teacher.
– You don’t belong in the middle of your parents’ break-up. Sometimes your parents may get so caught up in their own problems that they forget that you’re just a kid, and that you can’t handle their adult worries. If they start putting you in the middle of their dispute, remind them that it’s their fight, not yours.
– Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are still part of your life. Even if you’re living with one parent, you can still see relatives on your other parent’s side. You’ll always be a part of their lives, even if your parents aren’t together anymore.
– You have the right to be a child. Kids shouldn’t worry about adult problems. Concentrate on your school work, your friends, activities, etc. Your mom and dad just need your love. They can handle the rest.
– IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.
Great, right? It is a good idea to discuss this list with your children. If the divorcing adults and children can all have the discussion together, even better. Children are not too young to understand these rights; they will only absorb what is pertinent to them. Children are not too old to discuss these rights with their parents. It can open up some pretty surprising – and helpful – dialogues.
The key, of course, is communication. Children who are encouraged to speak honestly and openly about their parents’ divorce will have an easier time getting through it. But, even more importantly, people who learn from a young age to be good communicators are less likely to divorce in their own marriages as they get older.
What We Love: Divorce is an opportunity to be the best parent your child has ever known.