Children's Rights in Divorce Must Be Honored

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

A friend of mine recently drew my attention to a document, "Chidren's Bill  Of Rights In Divorce" which was prepared by the  Jefferson County Board of Mental Health, alcohol & Drug Addiction in Ohio.  I was so impressed by this bill of rights that I decided to share it with you.  According to the Children's Bill of Rights in Divorce, children have the following rights:

The right to be treated as an interested and affected person and not as a pawn or possession.

The right to love each parent, without feeling guilt, pressure, or rejection.

The right to love, care, discipline and protection from both parents.

The right to not choose sides or be asked to decide where they want to live.

The right to express their feelings about the divorce, such as anger, sadness or fear.

The right to a positive and constructive on-going relationship with each parent.

The right to not make adult decisions.

The right to remain a child, without being asked to take on parental responsibilities or be an adult companion or friend to parents.

The right to not participate in the painful games parents play to hurt each other or be put in the middle of their battles. 

The right to the most adequate level of economic support that can be provided by the best efforts of both parents.

 I wish that all parents who are separated or are in the process of divorce use this as a reference to guide their own conduct.  I further wish that parents who are engaged in a dispute over the custody and, or visitation issues, refer to this document with their attorneys or mediators to devise their plan of action.  Let all parties fully honor the Children's Bill of Rights in Divorce .

 I hope that children of divorce who can read get to read this Bill of Rights.  If you are a parent, read this to your child if he or she is hurting from the divorce.  Now, here is some more stuff from "Uncle Sharma" to all the children who have experienced divorce in their family.   

 Don't be afraid to tell your friends that your parents aren't living together anymore.  It's really not that strange.  Probably lots of other kids in your school and neighborhood have parents who aren't together anymore.  Telling your friends will make you feel better.  Remember, true friends don't make fun--they truly feel for you and will try to help you.  

 Parents divorce each other, not you.  They will always be your mom and dad.  Some parents get so angry with each other that they stop being mom or dad to their child. If a parent does that, it's never the child's fault.  It just means that the parent is not doing his or her parenting job real well.

 Sometimes, parents have to take help of lawyers to straighten things out between them.  Sometimes children have their own lawyer.  If you have a lawyer, remember your lawyer is on your side and his or her job is to help you.  If you have to go to court, your lawyer will be there with you.  If your lawyer or the judge asks you questions, be honest.  Your answers will help them to help you.  

 If you feel angry or sad, tell someone you love and trust.  It may hurt less after you tell that person.  You may even begin to feel better.  Other times, you might feel that you want to be alone, but you should let those who love you most help you.  Parents, grandparents, bothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, your friends or your family friends may be some of the people you may choose to tell and ask the questions that are on your mind.  

 A kid who taunts at you or teases you about the divorce, is either afraid that his or her own parents might get a divorce, or might have already faced a similar situation.  Teasing you and trying to make you feel worse eases his/her fear of that happening to his/her family.  Strange behavior, isn't it?  Just ignore it, smile if you can, and say nothing.  All you need to do is to tell yourself that that kid is scared.  Tell yourself it's not your fault that your parents are getting divorce.  

 For a while you might think a lot about a parent who is not living with you anymore.  It may make you sad.  Other times, sad feelings come all of a sudden from nowhere.  It is normal.  Most children feel sad after divorce.  As time goes on, you will feel these sad feelings less and less often.  It may be hard to believe now, but it will happen.  

 When parents get divorced, this is never what the children want.  It is natural for a child to feel angry after divorce.  Don't worry.  Just thinking angry thoughts won't hurt the people you love.  Be angry but also be kind to them.

 Remember, you cannot stop a divorce.  Remember it is not your job or your responsibility to bring them together.  However, you can choose how you feel about the divorce.  All kids feel sad, mad, and scared.  And remember, it just takes time for hearts to heal

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