Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Children's Rights and Responsibilities

Many children don’t have the courage to talk about what’s worrying them or express their feelings about their parents’ break-up. By telling them what their rights and responsibilities are, you’re giving them permission to ask questions, express their feelings about the separation or divorce and speak up if they’re feeling caught in the middle. It’s also another opportunity for you to tell your children that they are loved and will be cared for, no matter what – things that they need to hear from you often.

Review the Rights and Responsibilities in the Kids Guide and the Teen Guide before discussing them with your children. Not only will this give you an opportunity to prepare for any questions they may have, but it serves a more important purpose: it will tell you what your children’s rights and responsibilities are.

Children of all ages have the right to

  • feel the way they feel about their parents splitting up,
  • express their feelings,
  • ask questions about what is going to happen and why,
  • love and be loved by both parents,
  • feel safe,
  • talk to someone if they need help,
  • not take sides,
  • not choose between parents,
  • not carry messages between their parents,
  • not hear their parents say bad things about each other,
  • not be the support to a parent and
  • not have adult worries.

Children have a responsibility to

  • express their feelings in a way that doesn’t hurt other people or things,
  • speak up if their parents are asking them to do things that don’t feel right and
  • ask for help if they need it.

Did you notice the similarity between the rights of your children and your own parental responsibilities? That’s because one is dependent on the other, just as in any child-parent relationship. For example, if you criticize the other parent in front of your children, you’re ignoring your children’s right to not hear their parents say bad things about one another.

Being aware of your children’s rights and responsibilities, and how they connect to your responsibilities as a parent, is an important step in rebuilding your family. It won’t always be easy. You may stumble along the way, but keeping trying.

The Maintaining Your Focus section offers strategies to help you keep your feelings about the end of your relationship separate from your responsibilities as a parent and your children’s rights and responsibilities.