The Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce has been used in courtrooms and in therapy for many years, but it still holds true. Many researchers and other professionals include it in their work. You will see it in Dr. Robert Emery’s book, The Truth about Children and Divorce. Dr. Jane Major uses another version in her book, Creating a Successful Parenting Plan. I have seen many other versions with no original author noted.
The point however, is that we need to be reminded, in the midst of a divorce, that our children have rights as well.
Here is my version:
- I have the right to love and be loved by both of my parents, without guilt, pressure, disapproval or rejection.
- I have the right to be protected from my parents’ anger.
- I have the right to be kept out of the middle of my parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
- I have the right to have a regular daily and weekly routine, one that is not filled with unpredictable disruptions, chaos, or unpleasant surprises.
- I have the right to not have to choose between my parents. It is my right to not be expected to choose with whom I will live. Having to make this kind of choice will always hurt someone, and therefore, me. I have this right even when I am a teenager. I CAN NEVER CHOOSE BETWEEN MY PARENTS.
- I have the right not to be responsible for the emotional needs of my parents.
- I have the right to know well in advance about any major changes that will affect my life.
- I have the right to reasonable financial support from my parents.
- I have the right to appropriately express my feelings to my parents and expect that they will listen to me.
- I have the right to not be expected to make adult decisions. I have the right to remain a child and not replace a parent in my duties, or to act as an adult companion, personal friend or comforter to my parents.
- I have the right to like and love as many people (such as stepparents and relatives) as I want to without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal.
- I have the right to a life as close as possible to what I would have had if my parents had stayed married to each other.
In divorce, no one wins. Everyone in the family loses a piece of themselves, even if the divorce is for safety or very valid and appropriate reasons. All family members are grieving in their own individual ways. It is especially important during this transition, that parents seek out support and wise counsel, not only for themselves, but for their children.
Sandi is a Marriage & Family Therapist who has worked for over 15 yrs with children and teenagers. She has specialized and works alongside parents through the journey of divorce for 10 yrs. She is the owner of Family Life Counseling Center in Central Florida.