Monday, October 17, 2005

Keep the kids out of the middle - NH

The Telegraph Online


We should all take a lesson from New Hampshire RSA 461-A.

As of Oct. 1, RSA 461-A rids the state of the archaic and destructive notion of child custody.

Divorcing parents are instructed instead to work within the court system to determine their respective schedules of parenting “rights and responsibilities.”

RSA 461-A moves us closer to what we healthy parents know to be true: Parenting is a privilege and a responsibility. No matter the status of the legal or emotional bond between co-parents, parenting can never be about which parent gets more.

Healthy parenting is all about cooperating to see that the child’s needs are met.

Keep the child out of the middle isn’t as difficult as it may seem. No matter if you and your co-parent are living together or apart, married, separated or divorced, the rules are the same.

• You must actively support your child’s relationship with his other caregivers. To expose your child intentionally or accidentally to your negative feelings about your co-parent is a selfish and immature act of abuse.

• You must find a way to communicate constructively with your co-parent.

• You must work toward consistency of care. Children can and will adapt to each caregiver’s unique expectations and rules and consequences, but at what cost?

When you and your co-parent are consistent, the child’s world becomes that much more secure and predictable. There are fewer opportunities for splitting (“But Mommy lets me!”) and the child will have more emotional energy for growing and exploring and learning.

• Fight fair. When your kids must be exposed to your differences, let them see that anger needn’t be destructive. How you and your co-parent cope with anger is the model your children will emulate.

• Beware that asking the children to choose between caregivers can be painful and even traumatic. Separated and divorced co-parents sometimes think they’re being generous by allowing the child to choose in which home to live, where to spend the weekend and even who they’d like to attend the school play.

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