I was going through Pinterest recently and a post caught my attention.
It was labeled the Children’s Divorce Bill of Rights.
I read through the rights and it made a whole lot of sense to me. I am sure several of us whose parents have separated, divorced or who lived or are living together in an acrimonious relationship would agree with these rights. The truth is that children are affected by acrimony in the home, no matter how young they are. They are able to sense if things are alright at home and conflict between their parents affect them in several ways from childhood to adulthood.
Here is my version of the Bill of rights for children of divorced or separated parents.
- The right to love and be loved by both parents without feeling disapproval or guilt for loving both parents; the fact that parents do not love one another any longer does not mean the child has to stop loving any of the parents. The truth is that as CHILDREN of DIVORCE both our father and mother have a place in our hearts. We don’t like being labelled traitors because we want to have a relationship with the absent parent as well. They are a part of us and we are a part of them. Don’t hate us because you now hate them and don’t make us hate the part of us that reminds you of them.
- The right to be kept out of the middle of parental battles and not be made to take sides. The truth is that it is not our fight, we don’t like being in the middle of your fights, we don’t want to hear you abuse one another, we don’t want to be witnesses to your own side of the story, we don’t want to have to explain your motives to the other parent. We don’t want to be your spies when we visit the other parent. We just want to have a nice time visiting or staying with someone we love without thinking how our words will be used against us or the other parent.
- The right not to take on the burden of either parent’s emotional problem. So many of us are too young to bear your emotional burdens. We don’t need to be the repository of all the facts of your quarrel. We really do not want to hear all that happened, who did what, how you feel about so and so. When we are ready to know, please give us the facts objectively, let us know each person’s fault, don’t lie and don’t abuse our intelligence. We can reason, see through your lies and apportion blame. Until we are old enough, please see a therapist or talk to your friends.
- The right to have a relationship with the other parent and not to choose one parent over the other. Don’t deny us the privilege of spending time with the other parent except we are in mortal danger or will be physically or sexually abused whilst with them. A lot of parents use custody rights as a weapon to deny the other parent from spending time with the children of the marriage but that weapon is also used against the child in that we are denied the privilege of knowing the other parent. The truth is that no matter how many privileges, toys, treats and gifts you offer in lieu of the absent parent, one day, when we are old enough we will find the parent ourselves. We have a need to know who they really are and will go to great lengths to find them out and ascertain for ourselves whether you have told us the truth.
- The right to express our feelings and have them heard by both parents. We have feelings, questions, worries etc. We need you to ask us how we feel about all that is going on and that you listen, really listen to us and understand when we (mis)behave the way we do at times. We need you to understand that our behavior may be due to the frustrations, anger, hurt and emptiness we feel. We need you to help us understand why we have to live in two different homes, why we may have to move schools, cities, etc, why we may not be invited to family gatherings as before. We need you to talk us through our situation and not be so consumed by your failing relationship that you fail to notice that we too are an affected party.
- The right not to be used to get even with the other parent. Please don’t deny us certain privileges or rights just because you know it will affect the other parent. Don’t refuse to pay school fees, maintenance, luxuries that you can afford just to get back at the other parent by overburdening them financially and emotionally. We see it as a direct attack on us somewhat like a stray bullet which hits a bystander instead of the intended target. It creates feelings of animosity against you and makes us harden towards you ensuring we take sides with the other parent.
- The right to know well in advance about important changes that may affect us. Let us know what your plans are, whether we will have to go spend time with relatives or the other parent so we can plan our own events. Ask for our input when planning visitation rights, travel etc, it shows that our feelings are being considered and that we matter.
- The right to spend time with our extended family, grand parents and relatives. We love our aunties, uncles, grandparents and cousins. Don’t take them away from us. They help us to feel rooted and have a sense of belonging to a family structure. They are our ties and roots.
- The right to good memories. We need to be able to look back at our youth smile and be happy. Don’t leave us with memories filled with pain, anger suspicion, mistrust. We need to grow up emotionally balanced and be able to enjoy our future relationships.
- The right to been seen independently of the other parent. We didn’t choose our other parent you chose them, you decided to have children with them, so don’t see us as a reflection of our parent. Don’t direct the anger you feel towards them at us, don’t visit their sins on us, don’t project their behavior on us, don’t curse our existence because they hurt you. Whatever happened between you was not our fault and although we may look, talk and behave like them we are not them.
Our relationships affect our children for life but we can help in minimizing the negative effects; there are so many maladjusted and dysfunctional people in our society and I am convinced that most of them, their backgrounds are a testimony of how they turned out.
Our children must not become canon fodder upon which our anger is spent.