Parenting After Divorce
The Bill of Rights of Children

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Your initial half-hour consultation with one of our lawyers is of no obligation.

By Val Hemminger, Lawyer and Mediator

When you have kids, parenting after divorce is totally challenging. Virtually always, you are required to maintain a relationship of sorts with the other parent of your children no matter how much you can’t stand the idea.

The thing is, no matter how much you can’t stand the idea you have to suck it up. You have to be bigger and more grown up. Your kids depend on it. They are entitled to it. 

There is a ton of information out there on the web and a ton of advice coming from well-meaning friends and family. A lot of that time that advice does not include putting yourself into the other parent’s shoes. It does not include having compassion for the other parent’s own pain. It does not include how much the position you take on a given issue may impact your kids.

Parenting After Divorce:  A Challenge 

When learning about parenting after divorce, we find that most parents really want to do the right thing in terms of parenting after divorce. They want to do what is best. At the same time, they are sometimes not sure where to turn or which way to go in terms of making sure they do the right thing. 

This article is meant to give you some ideas and guidelines for parenting after divorce.

Below is the “Bill of Rights of Children” created by Lois V. Nightingale. It is re-printed with her generous permission. We have changed it a little bit here and there.

We encourage parents to each have a copy of this document in their own homes and to read it thoroughly. We often send a copy home with our own client to give to their ex-spouse.

The below guidelines can help you with parenting after divorce.

Bill of Rights of Children:

 By Lois V. Nightingale, Ph.D.~

Children Have the Right To:

  1. Continue to love both parents without guilt or disapproval (subtle or overt) by either parent or other relatives.
  2. Be able to talk about their experiences that they have with either parent or extended family and friends. That they may do so without subtle or overt disapproval.
  3. Be repeatedly reassured that the divorce is not their fault.
  4. To see their parents working together for their benefit (rearranging the schedule because Aunt Mary is in town, for example). Although this can be a challenging part of parenting after divorce, it is important.
  5. Be reassured they are safe and their needs will be provided for.
  6. Have a special place for their own belongings at both parents’ residences.
  7. Visit both parents regardless of what the adults in the situation feel, and regardless of convenience, or money situations.
  8. Express anger and sadness in their own way, according to age and personality (not have to give justification for their feelings or have to cope with trying to be talked out of their feelings by adults).
  9. Not be messengers between parents; not to carry notes, legal papers, money or requests between parents.
  10. 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.
  11. Love as many people as they choose any pressure (overt or otherwise) placed on them to feel guilty or disloyal. (Loving and being loved by many people is good for children; there is not a limit on the number of people a child can love.)
  12. 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).
  13. Stay in contact with relatives, including grandparents and special family friends.
  14. Choose to spend at least one week a year living apart from their custodial parent.
  15. Not be on an airplane, train or bus on major holidays for the convenience of adults.
  16. Have teachers and school informed about the new status of their family.
  17. Have time with each parent doing activities that create a sense of closeness and special memories.
  18. Have a daily and weekly routine that is predictable and can be verified by looking at a schedule on a calendar in a system understandable to the child. (For instance: a green line represents the scheduled time with dad, and a purple line represents the scheduled time with mom, etc.)
  19. 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 regardless of which parent is to be parenting the child at that time and which parent signed the child up for the activity.
  20. Contact the absent parent and have phone conversations without eavesdropping, being questioned or tape-recording.
  21. Ask questions and have them answered respectfully with age-appropriate answers that do not include blaming or belittlements of anyone.
  22. Be exposed to both parents’ religious ideas (without shame), both their hobbies, both their interests and both their tastes in food.
  23. Have consistent and predictable boundaries in each home. (Although the rules in each house may differ significantly, each parent’s set of rules needs to be predictable within their own household.)
  24. Be protected from hearing adult arguments and disputes.
  25. Have parents communicate (even if only in writing) about their medical treatment, psychological treatment, educational issues, accidents and illnesses.
  26. Not be interrogated upon return from the other parent’s home or asked to spy in the other parent’s home.
  27. Own pictures of both parents and be able to display them in their own home.
  28. Choose to talk with a special adult about their concerns and issues (counselor, therapist or special friend) with respect of their confidentiality being maintained (assuming of course that safety is not an issue).
  29. Have parents who have worked through or are taking responsibility for their own pain (they do this by obtaining therapy, using the simple forgiveness meditation technique of Hoʻoponopono, or any other method that will see their pain worked through in a responsible manner).
  30. Having parents be aware that the cost of conflict to children is profound, even if that conflict does not happen “in front of” children (children feel the tension and stress when there are missile texts and emails flying back and forth, for example).

Dr. Lois Nightingale, Ph.D. has written the Bill of Rights of Children in order to assist families in understanding how conflict between parents can affect children after the separation. The Bill of Rights of Children, in our view, assists parents in returning the focus of parenting back to the children and in seeing potential conflict from the child’s perspective. 

This book is a great resource to assist with parenting after divorce.

She is the author of the book, My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They’re Getting Divorced, a story/workbook for children and parents facing divorce. Her private practice is located in Yorba Linda California.

Return from parenting after divorce 

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