Children’s Bill of Rights When Their Parents Divorce
During mediation with clients who have children, I always point to an empty chair and say, “Let’s imagine that your children are sitting right here and listening to every word.”
When the mediation discussion gets difficult, I remind clients that it is a learning opportunity for them as parents. Children take their behavior clues from their parents. During the divorce, your children are observing you, learning how to behave when they have challenges and feel very hurt. They can learn to “shame and blame” or they can learn “dignity and respect.” You as the parents lead the way.
Emotional Safety for the Children During Divorce
Divorce presents many moments when the promises you made to your children that you will always protect them are put to the test. Often parents think about physical safety, but this test is about emotional safety, and it’s just as important. This is the time to put your pain and justifications behind the children, not in front of them, and not have every word they hear filtered through your pain.
Bill Of Rights for Children Whose Parents Are Separated
The following Bill of Rights for Children is a road map for adult behavior that will help your children because it shows you respect their challenges. Many parents have posted the list right on the refrigerator. Invite your children to use the Bill of Rights to remind you and your spouse to “back-off” or rethink your behavior. This list can be a safe way for the children to communicate difficult feelings during a very upsetting and unsettling period for them.
1. The right not to be asked to “choose sides” between their parents.
2. The right not to be told the details of the legal proceedings going on between their parents.
3. The right not to be told “bad things” about the other parent’s personality or character.
4. The right to privacy when talking to either parent on the telephone.
5. The right not to be cross-examined by one parent after spending time with the other parent.
6. The right not to be asked to be a messenger from one parent to the other.
7. The right not to be asked by one parent to tell the other parent untruths.
8. The right not to be used as a confidant regarding adult matters.
9. The right to express feelings, whatever those feelings may be.
10. The right to choose not to express certain feelings
11. The right to be protected from parental “warfare.”
12. The right not to be made to feel guilty for loving both parents.
- NYS Unified Court System-Tompkins County Courts
- A similar version was drafted by Justice James Brands of Duchess County Family Court, New York, and Justice Ira Harkavy of Supreme Court, Kings County, New York.
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