Parents listen up…just because you and your ex-partner can not, do not, will not agree on most things…THINK OF YOUR CHILD FIRST! What is in the best interests of the child? Are you able to think about your child(ren) or are you wrapped up in your emotions about “my time” versus the “kids time?” Do you believe “your time” is spending quantity time versus quality time? Are you able to identify what is important to your child(ren) and separate what is important to you? Parents are blessed with a special gift…children…they are not yours to keep; children are small for a short while and ‘should’ blossom into healthy, social, respectful young adults.
For the longest time, children were to ‘be seen and not heard.’ Father’s treated their children as property, and mother’s acted as if they were all alone to raise the children. As the pendulum swings, we must find a middle ground when it relates to custody of children. Children do not have a choice, children do not have a say where they will live, activities they want to do, and how they will spend their time. Sure, parents may ask their children about their thoughts and ideas, but ultimately parents have the final say (as they should within reason).
Most parents that are sharing custody with their child(ren) are able to separate their feelings from their child(ren)s feelings; and make informed decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. Parents that live in conflict with one another seem to forget about their child’s wishes, and focus on hurting the other parent instead. Many children have came to me and said, “I feel my parents don’t care what I say, it seems they are too concerned about hurting me.” Recently, a 10 year old boy was referred to me because he was ‘sad’ that he can only play sports half time. He has been playing Lacrosse for four years (prior to his parents divorce), and since the separation, his mom refuses to take him during ‘her time’ because she ‘only’ has him fifty percent of the time now and Lacrosse is not as important as it used to be to her. However, he feels that it is not fair, and ‘why should I have to lose out just because my parents divorced.’ His dad still takes him, however, only 50% of the time. This boy has suffered great consequences that are important to him, and feels ‘it is not important, no one cares.’ The players no longer speak to him as much, and his playing time decreased. Although this is a recreational team, this child is feeling the negative impacts about his parents divorce. His outlet is sports, and now only plays fifty percent of the time. Is this fair, one may ask? Why should the child have to miss out?
Too many families have similar situations and too many children are left by the wayside. Children do not have legal rights to make decisions until they are 18 years old. In some states, children may receive legal counsel, so their voice is heard. When parents separate and/or divorce, their time with their child(red) decrease and they want to hold onto their child(red). Regardless who has more time, and/or less time, parents (and children) go through loss of the intact family. When parents are unable to resolve issues as their child(red) develop, the children remain in the middle, and parents continue to have conflict around them. Regardless of ‘my time’, what about your ‘child’s time’ and what is in their ‘best interests?’ This question remains a mystery to many parents and children out there because our family courts do not see it as the ‘child’s time’ the family courts see it as ‘parenting time.’ Parents, if you are one of those parents that feel it is ‘your time’ and refuse to allow your children to play sports, participate in theater, dance, gymnastics, art, friends sleepovers (within reason), and maintain a healthy lifestyle, please reach out to a therapist trained in this area to help sort out what is truly important. Let’s begin to think about the “best interests of children.” Children love when their parents are involved in activities they like, and want to share these experiences. This does not have to be about your ex-spouse, and can be about the relationship with your child(red). Children that play sports, do extra-curricular activities, etc. has proven to have better self-confidence, feel a sense of belonging, can deal with problems better, and have self-worth. Parents, try not to limit their activities that are healthy for them, try to work with the other parent and make arrangements so your children can have a well-balanced life and ‘stay out of the middle.’ Listen to your children! Hear what they say, and communicate with the other parent!
Article written by Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC