The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

June 5, 2006

6-4 Apparently So parenting column by Craig Harris

By CRAIG HARRIS, Special to the Herald-Press

Today, about half of the children in the United States live in a household where a divorce has occurred. This is not the end of the world; you and I can think of worse things happening, but divorce adds another layer of challenges to the lives of the children.

When parents divorce, the children often feel personally responsible for the breakup. It is important that they are told early and often that it was not their fault. Beyond the emotional pain, they are forced to adjust to lifestyle changes that would be stressful to even the most well-adjusted adults. They may live with a single mom, or a blended family where each parent has certain baggage from the past.

Many live part of the time with each parent and have to continually move back and forth. Kids are resilient, but this continual uprooting can be unsettling. I saw a family on TV this week that allows the daughter to stay in the house and her parents take turns spending the week with her. To me, that seems more fair, but usually impractical.

Children in a divorce may have to adjust to their mom’s new boyfriend or dad’s dating lifestyle. And children living with single mothers are more likely to live in poverty than any other group. I don’t know how single, working mothers do it, but I have tremendous respect for them for accomplishing all they do.

So, divorce can be difficult on children — and can hurt their grades, learning and social growth. Our challenge as parents is to provide our children with the best home possible so they can grow up healthy, well-adjusted and strong. If divorce has occurred, the challenges are greater, but with love and care, we can provide a happy and healthy home for our children.

With this in mind, here is the Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce, as written by the Wisconsin Supreme Court:

1. The right to be treated as an interested and affected person and not as a pawn or possession.

2. The right to love each parent without feeling guilt, pressure or rejection.

3. The right to love, care, discipline, and protection from both parents.

4. The right to not choose sides or be asked to decide where they want to live.

5. The right to express their feelings about the divorce, such as anger, sadness or fear.

6. The right to a positive and constructive ongoing relationship with each parent.

7. The right to not make adult decisions.

8. The right to remain a child, without being asked to take on parental responsibilities or be an adult companion or friend to parents.

9. The right to the most adequate level of economic support that can be provided by the best efforts of both parents.

10. The right to not participate in the painful games parents play to hurt each other or be put in the middle of their battles.

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Craig Harris is the Parent Involvement Coordinator for the Palestine Independent School District and the Pastor of Montalba Christian Church. Contact Harris at www.apparentlyso.net.