Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Children's rights and responsibilities

Many children do not have the courage to talk about what’s worrying them, or express their feelings about the break-up of their parents’ relationship. By letting them know about their rights and responsibilities, you are giving them permission to ask questions, express their feelings about the separation or divorce, and speak up if they are feeling caught in the middle. It is also another opportunity for you to tell your children that they are loved and will be cared for, no matter what – things that they need to hear often from you.

Review the Rights & Responsibilities in the Kids Guide and the Teen Guide before discussing them with your children. Not only will this give you an opportunity to prepare for any questions they may have, but it serves a more important purpose: informing you about your children’s rights and what their responsibilities are.

Children of all ages have the right to:

  • Feel the way they feel about their parents splitting up
  • Express their feelings
  • Ask questions about what is going to happen and why
  • Love and be loved by both parents
  • Feel safe
  • Talk to someone if they need help
  • Not take sides
  • Not choose between parents
  • Not carry messages between their parents
  • Not hear their parents say bad things about each other
  • Not be the support to a parent
  • Not have adult worries

Children have a responsibility to:

  • Express their feelings in a way that doesn’t hurt other people or things
  • Speak up if their parents are asking them to do things that don’t feel right
  • Ask for help if they need it

Did you notice the similarity between the rights of your children and your own parental responsibilities? That is because one is dependent upon the other, just as in any child-parent relationship. For example, if you are tempted to criticize the other parent in front of your child, then you ignore your child’s right to not hear his or her parents say bad things about the other.

Being aware of your children’s rights and responsibilities, and how they connect to your responsibilities as a parent, is an important step on the path to rebuilding your family. It won’t always be easy to follow these responsibilities to the letter. You may stumble along the way, but keep trying.

In Maintaining your focus, strategies are offered to help you keep your feelings about the end of your relationship separate from your parental responsibilities and the rights and responsibilities of your children.