WNY Family Magazine September 2018 - Page 46

even if it is not always positive or per- fect. Without this opportunity, kids will feel a void and may attempt to fill it in ways that put them at risk. SINGLE PARENTING — by Diane Dierks, LMFT Kids Have the Right to be Kids T he last forty years of re- search on children of di- vorce is definitive about what negatively affects kids the most. First and foremost, economics is the number one factor that determines how kids will fare after divorce. Therefore, if parents are bent on fighting tooth and nail for their own individual rights and, in the process, dry up all financial re- sources on both sides, they are putting their children at risk. Secondly, the amount of conflict parents continue to engage in has the largest emotional affect on kids. So, continuing the martial fighting pattern and failing to get the emotional divorce keeps kids at risk for behavioral and emo- tional problems. Thirdly, attempt- ing to alienate the kids from the other par- ent or using negative words to turn them against their other par- ent will most certainly put them at risk for a va- riety of negative outcomes, from poor self-esteem to serious psychological disorders. Knowing this important informa- tion should help us see that it is impera- tive to consider the rights of children 46 WNY Family September 2018 who do not choose their parents, nor do they choose to experience divorce or life in a single-parent family. When both parents are sensitive to these rights, they are less likely to put their kids at risk of becoming part of the negative statistics that too often plague kids of divorce and single parent homes. Although there are many important details sur- rounding the rights of chil- dren in divorce, the follow- ing are the most general and important in my opinion: The right to love both parents and not be expected to choose. We all hold our parents to a certain standard and feel very much a part of who they are. We nev- er get over that, even after our parents are gone. Kids of all ages feel this way and need the freedom to pursue whatever relationship they desire with their parents. Asking a child to choose one parent over the other, whether physically or emotionally, is like asking them to choose which eye, arm, or thumb they would rather lose over the other. Kids rightfully feel the need for attachment to both parents and should be given the freedom to experience that, The right to have feelings and express them respectfully. There is nothing more cra zy-making than to be told your feelings don’t matter or that what you are feeling is wrong or un- warranted. When a child is angry, sad, confused, overwhelmed, uncomfortable, etc., he or she is entitled to those feel- ings and should be taught to experience and express them respectfully. If a child has strong feelings about something in- volving a parent or specific situation, it should be okay for that child to express anger or disappointment respectfully, without fearing that the parent listen- ing will ridicule, downplay, or engage in badmouthing. They simply need to be heard and validated. Kids who are told that what they are experiencing or feel- ing is not valid, or who are made to feel that the situation does not warrant their particu- lar feelings, grow up not trusting their instincts and gut feelings about relationships and life. This, alone, can cre- ate extremely negative consequences in adult- hood. The right to be safe when in the care of either parent. This should go without saying, but I am continually amazed at the unsafe things parents will do in the presence of their children. Exposing kids to illegal drugs, excessive alcohol use, drunk driving, and explicit sex is simply unacceptable, not to mention leaving young kids alone for long peri- ods of time, and failing to refrain from verbal and physical abuse toward or in front of the children. Kids should expect their parents’ protection at all costs. The right to love extended fam- ily members. Although parents may not like their in-laws very much after divorce, kids have a unique relation- ship to them and should be allowed to have access to those relatives who de- fine their history and family culture.