Holidays can be very stressful—there seems like an endless list of tasks to complete, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, parties to host, parties to attend, goodies to bake, cards to address and send all to make the holidays, whatever you may celebrate, the BEST TIME OF THE YEAR!!
If you are like me, you LOVE the holidays and all that comes with it, chaos and everything. What’s not to love? Well, if you are a child from a not-intact family, the holidays can present an entirely different challenge for them. Whose family celebrates what? When do they celebrate? How do they celebrate? “Where will I be when?” It is often a concern for children during the holidays. In a prior article, we discussed the Court Holiday Schedule and sharing holiday time to ensure that everyone gets to share the holidays, whatever they may be, with their children and the children with their parents.
But there is so much more to it than that. Holidays are supposed to be special times, building memories that will last a lifetime. But are they good memories or bad ones? No one wants to be the Bah-humbug that ruins the holidays for their children. How can you ensure that does not happen, even accidentally? Practice the pause and follow the Children’s Bill of Rights.
The Children’s Bill of Rights is exactly what it sounds like, it is list of principles that parents in no longer intact families are expected to follow to keep their children as isolated from the adult “drama” a break up involves, to encourage and foster their right to a relationship with both parents even if the parents are no longer together (remember, your kids did not break up with or divorce either of you as their parents) and to let children be free of the burden of being “stuck in the middle” between their parents. The Bill of Rights is based largely on common sense and provides children:
- The right not to be asked to “choose sides” between their parents.
- The right not to be told the details of a bitter, nasty divorce or break up.
- The right not to be told “bad things” about the other parent’s personality or character.
- The right to privacy when talking to either parent on the telephone.
- The right not to be cross-examined by one parent after visiting or talking with the other.
- The right not to be asked to be a messenger from one parent to the other.
- The right not to be asked by one parent to tell the other parent untruths.
- The right not to be used as a confidant regarding the divorce proceedings by one parent or the other.
- The right to express feelings, whatever those feelings may be.
- The right to choose to express certain feelings.
- The right to be protected from parental warfare.
- The right not to be made to feel guilty for loving both parents
Sounds simple right? It is a lot harder than it seems. Especially at a family gathering where someone inevitably wants to catch up on the family drama. It’s so simple to just answer Auntie’s seemingly benign question about “what happened?!” and be done with it, isn’t it? So much easier than avoiding it or deflecting the conversation just knowing they’ll ask again. Little ears hear EVERYTHING. Whether intended for their ears or not, they hear it, they understand and they absorb it… and will recount it for you in very precise detail at some point in the future you last expected it. So, before enjoying the holidays and a little venting session about your ex over the eggnog or asking your child “What did Mommy/Daddy get you?” and keeping score, keep in mind your child’s right to be a child, practice the pause and remember the Children’s Bill of Rights. You can’t go wrong taking the high road. I promise it will pay off in the future.
Julie Burick, Esq. is a seasoned family law attorney who focuses her practice on all aspects of divorce and family law, including Appellate cases and Domestic Violence matters. If you have an family issue involving holiday parenting time, know that time is of the essence in getting these issues resolved. Contact our Haddonfield office at 856-428-8334 to schedule a confidential consultation.