As a parent, I’m often reminded that children are our most precious asset. Recently, after my routine day-to-day responsibilities of going to work, picking up my son from preschool, and the ensuing home tasks that follow, I noticed something. I had barely talked to my son. Of course, I talked at him—“Get up, put your clothes on, sit down, stand up” and so on. Yet, something made me stop, look into his eyes and ask him, “How was your day?” Although he seemed very surprised that I had asked, his eyes lit up and he proceeded to tell me a story about marbles and about the fun he had with his classmates. Just then I realized he needed my undivided attention and that my routine had gotten in the way.
You don’t need to be a parent to realize this amazing treasure. Whether you’re a parent, a coach or relative of a young person, I’ll bet there is at least one child in your life whose interests you would vigorously defend.
In fact, a heavily litigated subject in many domestic relations and juvenile court cases is what is in the “best interest of the child.” As can be expected, parents in the midst of a contested divorce will differ greatly as to what this term means. In the majority of cases, a guardian ad litem, or representative appointed by the court, will appear in the case to advocate on the child’s behalf. The guardian ad litem, or GAL must consider many factors in helping the court make that determination. Some of these include simply ascertaining the child’s wishes, evaluating the child’s interactions and relationships with others, the child’s mental and physical health, and how the child makes adjustments to his or her environment, just to name a few.
In a perfect world, everyone would consider many of these same factors every time they have an encounter with a child. You don’t have to be perfect, however—just concerned. Take time out to gaze into the eyes of a young person and ask them about their day. You may be pleasantly surprised.