Do you think there is (or should be) a Bill of Rights for Separated & Divorced Parents? Peaceful Divorce member Rosalind Sedacca provides a wealth of resources regarding child-centered divorce, and shares her thoughtful commentary on this 12-point list that was published on the internet:
1) The right to feel and express love and affection for your children. Rosalind Sedacca: No one should deny you this right or your children the right to benefit from your love. With today’s technology, distance should never be a factor that keeps you from regular contact and communication with your children.
2) The right to receive love and affection from your children. RS: No one should keep your children from expressing their love for you. You will always be one of their parents and neither divorce nor time will impact that if you keep the channels of communication open.
3) The right to feel safe and protected in a stable home environment. RS: If you are being intimidated, threatened or made to feel insecure within and around your home space, you need to reach out for assistance – immediately!
4) The right to grieve the losses associated with marital and family changes. RS: It is okay to feel down and depressed about the transition you are going through. Some of it may be related to the loss of dreams and expectations about what could have been. Some of it may be fear and insecurity about the unknown. Give yourself time for grief, regret and self-pity if it helps. But then be prepared to let go and move on – especially for the sake of your children.
5) The right to seek help and support from family, friends and the community. RS: This is important for you to remember. You are not alone, unless you choose to be. Other people care a lot about you and want to lend a hand, an ear or other support. Let them. Don’t be too proud to acknowledge that you need time alone, help with the children, a professional to talk to. There are divorce support groups, divorce coaches, therapists and counselors as well as on-line support through resources such as my own Child-Centered Divorce Network. You are not alone.
6) The right to have continued, meaningful and consistent contact with your children. RS: This, of course, is a big area of contention in some divorces and the source of much pain and heartbreak for parents and their children. If you are a caring and loving parent, divorce should not change your status as a parent, nor your right to interact with your children as such. Seek legal as well as therapeutic counsel if your former spouse is trying to deny you these rights. But first have a heart-to-heart talk with your ex, reminding him or her that the emotional well-being of your innocent children will be affected if they are cut off from either parent. This is the time to use your best and most enlightened communication skills. Anger, threats, power plays and manipulations are not the way to remedy this situation.
7. The right to feel and manage all your feelings during this time of transition and healing. RS: It’s natural for your emotions to bounce around from day to day, maybe hour to hour while you’re coping with your new reality. You won’t always like how you feel, but you have the right to experience your feelings and handle them as best you can without being made to feel wrong, over-dramatic, stupid or immature by others looking on.
8. The right to make mistakes while you build upon your strengths and continue to learn as a parent. RS: No one ever gets a degree in parenting, with a diploma that says you’ve learned it all. This is an on-going process and making mistakes is just a natural part of living and parenting. Happily, we can all apologize for mistakes once we recognize them – even if it’s years later. It means a lot to your children to hear you occasionally say, “Sorry. I was wrong.”
9. The right to build a cordial and cooperative parenting relationship with the other parent. RS: This is more than a right. To me it is a goal to be strived for at all costs. Unless your ex is a true monster/villain/demon, your children will be better off seeing you both cooperating, collaborating and getting along throughout the remainder of your co-parenting years and long after. Life for children of divorce is much easier when their parents aren’t bickering at graduations, weddings, the birth of grandchildren and the dozens of holidays and special occasions that make up family life. Give your children the gift of a harmonious relationship with your ex and they will be grateful to you for life!
10. The right to stay out of the middle of conflict between your children and the other parent. RS: This is where you understand your boundaries and don’t cross them. Everyone involved will appreciate your minding your own business, unless asked to get involved.
11. The right to set appropriate rules, limits and consequences for your children. RS:This obviously comes with being a parent. But keep in mind, children fare much better when both parents are consistent and in agreement about rules and consequences. This is even more important after you divorce. Whenever possible, keep life as consistent and predictable as you can for your children – even if they are living in two separate homes.
12. The right to create a healthy and happy future for you and your children. RS:My best advice is to think before you act when it comes to all parenting decisions, especially after divorce. Ask yourself, “Will this create a happy future for my children? Or will the consequences be drama that they’ll have to deal with for years to come?” Be the hero. Take the high road when you can. What will your children say to you when they are grown adults about your behavior and decisions in the years after the divorce? Let that be your guide.
Too many parents experiencing divorce fail to take into account the long-term consequences of their short-term actions. They get blinded by anger, resentment, hatred, revenge and other emotions bent upon hurting, harming or demeaning their former spouse. This lack of foresight and understanding about the consequences for their children leads to the headlines we see every day and the painful lives so many children live in our own communities – our own families. Think before you act. Not only do you have rights, your ex has rights too. And so do your children.
You will never regret a decision that creates love, peace, harmony and joy in their lives. Be a catalyst for harmony – and you’ll be a hero in their eyes!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is the author of the new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! For more information, free articles on child-centered divorce and her free ezine, go to: http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.