By Lois Nightingale, Ph.D
Children have the right to:
- Continue to love both parents without guilt or disapproval (subtle or overt) by either parent or other relatives.
- Be repeatedly reassured that the divorce is not their fault.
- Be reassured they are safe and their needs will be provided for.
- Have a special place for their own belongings at both parents’ residences.
- Visit both parents regardless of what the adults in the situation feel, and regardless of convenience, or money situations.
- Express anger and sadness in their own way, according to age and personality (not have to give justification for feelings or have to cope with trying to be talked out of feelings by adults).
- Not be messengers between parents; not to carry notes, legal papers, money or requests.
- Not make adult decisions, including where they will live, where and when they will be picked up or dropped off, or who is to blame.
- Love as many people as they choose without being made to feel guilty or disloyal. (Loving and being loved is good for children; there is not a limit on the number of people a child can love.)
- Continue to be kids, i.e. not take on adult duties and responsibilities or become a parent’s special confidant, companion or comforter (i.e. not to hear repeatedly about financial problems or relationship difficulties).
- Stay in contact with relatives, including grandparents and special family friends.
- Choose to spend at least one week a year living apart from their custodial parent.
- Not be on an airplane, train or bus on major holidays for the convenience of adults.
- Have teachers and school informed about the new status of their family.
- Have time with each parent doing activities that create a sense of closeness and memories.
- Have a daily and weekly routine that is predictable and can be verified by looking at a schedule on a calendar. (For instance: a green line represents the scheduled time with dad, and a purple line represents the scheduled time with mom, etc.)
- Participate in sports, special classes or clubs that support their unique interests, and have adults that will get them to these events, on time without guilt or shame.
- Contact the absent parent and have phone conversations without eavesdropping.
- Ask questions and have them answered respectfully with age-appropriate answers that do not include blaming or belittlements of anyone.
- Be exposed to both parents’ religious ideas (without shame), hobbies, interests and foods.
- Have consistent, predictable boundaries in each home. (Although the rules in each house may differ significantly, each parent’s rules needs to be predictable within their household.)
- Be protected from hearing adult arguments and disputes.
- Have parents communicate (even if only in writing) about their medical treatment, psychological treatment, educational issues, accidents and illnesses.
- Not be interrogated upon return from the other parent’s home or asked to spy in the other parent’s home.
- Own pictures of both parents.
- Choose to talk with a special adult about their concerns and issues (counselor, therapist or special friend).
© 2011 by Lois V. Nightingale, Ph.D., director of the Nightingale Center in Yorba Linda and author of My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They’re Getting Divorced. 714-993-5343 www.nightingalecenter.com