Religion & Co-Parenting; Striking a Balance
1. Religious traditions versus Indoctrination
This is the difference between sharing your faith with your child and having them participate in certain religious rites of passage (e.g., baptism, confirmation, bar mitzvah). Parents should be allowed to talk to their children about their faith and to share aspects of it with them, but participating in organized rituals should require the consent of both parents unless one parent has sole decision-making power. The end point is morality, not religion. Religion provides a framework for morality but one can be religious without being moral and vice-versa. Ultimately, we should care about if we raise moral children and not necessarily religious children.
2. Morals & Core Values
We should ask ourselves why sharing our religion with our children matters. We should do serious soul searching and be honest with ourselves and make sure we are not making this area into a battleground due to anger with your ex-spouse. Instead we should consider the values of our religion and what we hope our child(ren) learns from our faith. This personal exploration will help us when we do choose to talk with our co-parent about faith.
3. Holidays & Traditions
What are the holidays, rituals, and traditions you want your child to experience? How do you imagine those experiences would be for your co-parent, and what religious traditions do you imagine he or she wants to share? Try to imagine how those holidays and traditions might co-exist. The ability to co-parent with different religions will make your child feel less pressure and therefore be happier.
4. Above all respect
As with all areas of co-parenting, operating from a place of respect establishes a good foundation and models how to sort through conflict constructively. Try to genuinely understand your co-parent’s point of view. Try to share your point of view without being defensive or belittling the other religion. If you need help, access a divorce coach or therapist.
When your child grows up, he will ultimately decide if and how to incorporate religion and spirituality into his life. If you have modeled the values of your religion (love, kindness, compassion), you will have given your child an enormous gift.
You can appreciate a religion without subscribing to it. There’s a beauty to the ritual, music and message of any faith. There is no need to critique it; it can just be accepted for what it is and let the kids take from it what they may. There’s no value in saying anything disparaging about a faith or its practitioners. This is never a good idea; religious or not.
I want my children to hear my beliefs. What I want for my children are to have morality, respect and open-mindedness. If they grow to become religious, I want them to come to their decision freely.
How conflict be avoided?
There are healthy ways to pass your values and beliefs onto your children without offending your partner. Rather than focusing on what can come from not following your religion (punishment), focus on the reason you chose to follow the religion. If you do this correctly you children will be able to choose for themselves what will work best.
Try to find similarities among your religions. Do not pollute the relationship you have with your child or your partner over your religion. Hold strong in what you believe, but this belief should not be aggressively imposed on others.
Look for the positives/Never point out the negatives.