All this mucking about in court and making decisions for your kids, even if they are in their best interests, can sometimes overlook what the child actually wants. Take a moment to step back from all this and ask yourself, is this really what they want? If you haven’t asked, now’s a good time to include them in the decision making process. Obviously this is different if the child is at a very young age but if they are old enough to start using their own judgment then it might be a good idea to let them have their say in the matter. If you’re in a court room setting, some states will take the child’s opinion into account, others will not. This information is readily accessible to you. If you’re not in the court room and you guys are trying to work out the details of where your child is going to live, and you’re letting your child choose for themselves, make sure they’re making the choice for the right reasons. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is influencing their decision? Are they choosing you or the other parent because one of you is nicer or lets them eat ice cream and stay up late? This shouldn’t be about good cop bad cop. Examine your relationship with them.
- Have you noticed your child leaning more towards the other parent? If they’ve been spending the majority of their time with one of you, why is that? It might be time to get closer to your kids.
- How well do you two relate? If you’re not as close to them as they are with the other parent, find out why. This could influence their judgment.
This is a critical time in your child’s life. Not only is their family life changing, but if you’re allowing them to make their own decisions about where they want to live, make sure they’re using good judgment. As a parent you can’t just let them do whatever they want but it is your responsibility to ensure that they can make sound decisions that aren’t solely based on a whim. If they want to go live with their mother because they have a gumball machine in their room, they’re not making a decision that’s based on sound judgment. Obviously this depends on their age and as a parent, you need to be able to tell if they’re able to make decisions like this. This can be a test to see how good their judgment is. As a parent, make this a lesson for them. The moral of the story is, you’ll use their judgment until such time as your judgment proves to be better.