Most of us moved to Westchester mainly for our children. Our primary desire was to provide them with the best childhood possible. We welcomed the family life built on our kids’ sports games, dance recitals, Sunday night barbecues with friends, sleep-overs, trips to the local ice cream store and school spirit nights. Although your marriage might now be ending, I am sure that your primary concern still remains your children. You want them to remain as happy, innocent, and unscathed as possible. Although most divorcing parents cite this as their number one priority, they often get derailed somewhere along the way. This is the first in a series of blog posts in which I hope I can provide you with important information to help you help your children.
The first thing to consider is what your children deserve from you during this difficult time. There are several versions of the Child’s Bill of Rights, but the one that I like the best is written by Robert Emery, The Truth About Children and Divorce. He is a well renowned expert on the experiences of children during divorce and a strong proponent of divorce mediation. Here is his bill of rights:
Every child whose parents’ divorce has:
- The right to love and be loved by both of your parents without feeling guilt or disapproval.
- The right to be protected from your parents’ anger with each other.
- The right to be kept out of the middle of your parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
- The right not to have to choose one of your parents over the other.
- The right not to have to be responsible for the burden of either of your parents’ emotional problems.
- The right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect your life; for example, when one of your parents is going to move or get remarried.
- The right to reasonable financial support during your childhood and through your college years.
- The right to have feelings, to express your feelings, and to have both parents listen to how you feel.
- The right to have a life that is as close as possible to what it would have been if your parents stayed together.
- The right to be a kid.
If both divorcing parents keep this child’s bill of rights in mind at all times — whether making big decisions or during every day conversations, your children will remain well adjusted and confident in the fact that they have two parents who love and will keep them safe. I give a copy of these rights to all of my divorce mediation clients and encourage them to tape it to their refrigerator for ease of reference. Whether or not you do this is up to you. The important thing is that you make the best interests of your children your number one priority.