Divorce Expert Dr. Mark Banschick Defines the Children’s Bill of Rights to Prevent Mistreatment During Divorce

A Child’s Bill of Rights

One of the most compelling shifts this week’s guest has made in his work is a simple grammatical one. Working with the courts, he came across a judge’s assessment of a “child’s bill of rights”. Dr. Banschick shifted the perspective—rewrote them from the “I” point of view—and thus created his “Child’s Bill of Rights”.

I sat down with Dr. Mark Banschick, child psychologist with training from Georgetown University and New York Presbyterian Hospitals, expert witness in custody disputes, author of The Intelligent Divorce: Taking Care of Your Children, and writer for Psychology Today. He has been featured on the CBS Early Show and quoted in The New York Times, CNN and USA Today. He recently launched a comprehensive online course, Intelligent Divorced Parenting to help parents deal more effectively with divorce even when confronted with a difficult former spouse.

Point of View and Why it Matters

It’s worth drawing a little attention to the point of view decision in drafting the child’s bill of rights. Dr. Banschick chooses to use the first person “I” point of view. Why? Because it reminds the listener that there is another human being—a child—telling you how they want and need to be treated. Keeping this perspective in mind is a powerful exercise in mindfulness. It keeps us aware, with the simple shift of perspective, of just how our behavior affects children.

Children’s Bill of Rights

These rules help keep parents in their appropriate place as authority figures –not friends—and can help keep children in a safe place of innocence.

  • Don’t ask me to choose sides

This may sound obvious, but it can come down to delineated preferences in even the smallest of decisions—where you watch the big game, what you wear for school pictures, whether you’re a “dog person” or a “cat person”.

  • Spare me the details of the legal proceedings 

No child needs to know how much child support you should be receiving or if you’re disappointed with that number.

  • Don’t confide in me or lean on me (it’s too much)

Parents going through divorce should lean on their own friends and family, or a support group. Kids shouldn’t be giving pep talks.

  • Give me privacy on my phone with the other parent

Treat their relationship as sacred (because it is).

  • Don’t cross-examine me afterwards

See note above!

  • I am not your messenger

This one may be tough because it’s easy to share messages through the kids. But that takes them out of their role as child. Don’t do it.

  • Don’t ever ask me to lie to the other parent

Asking your child to lie is asking them to choose sides. Not only are they too young for that decision, but they will resent you for it later.

  • Listen to me when I have something to say

Your child is a person, too. And they are going through something lifechanging, too.

  • No guilt trips no matter what

This can be very tough since sometimes a detail from a weekend visit or the excitement of an upcoming trip can trigger feelings of inadequacy. But you are the adult and you can’t give your child a guilt trip just because you are feeling bad. Talk to your friends!

  • Don’t spoil me even if you feel guilty

There’s a reason you didn’t spoil your kids before you got a divorce. The side effects are awful. Spoiling your child because you feel guilty is condemning them to a lifetime of unhappiness.

This series with Dr. Banschick is more than just a review of an expert’s tips. In many ways, it will be a guide to how you can successfully navigate divorce with children in the kindest and most productive way.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.

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