Raising your child with Christian values can be difficult if your co-parent doesn't share the same views as you do. Learning how to raise a child with someone who doesn't have the same beliefs as you do is a matter of compromise and patience.
Parenting with a Non-Christian Parent
To decrease the amount of disagreements you have with your co-parent, it's wise to create a co-parenting agreement. This agreement will establish the foundation on which many of the decisions you and your co-parent make will be based. The foundation should incorporate both of the parents' beliefs.
What to Include in a Christian Co-Parenting Agreement
- When will the child attend religious services or events? Make sure to include details in the co-parenting agreement such as dates and times. If you and your co-parent do not agree on religious participation, compromise by making an agreement that the child will attend religious services/events when she or he is with the Christian parent.
- How will the child celebrate Christian holidays? Identify each holiday and who the child will be with. Discuss and write down important information about what the child will do on that day. For example, if the child is with the non-Christian co-parent on Christmas, discuss whether or not the child will go to a Christmas religious service, what will be done on that day, and what the parent will tell the child about Christmas.
- Field trips and other school activities are also important topics. Discuss any field trips or other school activities that each parent may not allow. For example, if the school wants to take students to a particular museum that exhibits beliefs opposed to Christianity, the Christian parent may not agree with allowing the child to attend. Alternatively, a non-Christian parent may not want the child to attend a Nativity presentation because he or she may not believe in it. Ask the school for information about potential activities so that you can decide on your child's participation together and note it on the co-parenting agreement.
Dealing with Opposing Values
There may be times when your child will interact with someone in a non-Christian manner. Your child may not have known how to handle a situation, and turned to your co-parent for advice, who may have told your child to handle the situation in a non-Christian way that you do not agree with. In this case, it's important to show your child there are many ways to handle situations. Over time, he will be able to decide what is the best way to deal with these difficult interactions.
If you begin to see that your child is taking all of your co-parents suggestions and it is starting to affect the child negatively, it may be time to intervene with the co-parent. Bring up the issues that have occurred and ask the co-parent if he or she can incorporate other ways in handling situations. These values may not be as opposing to the co-parent as you may think they are, and your child will have reinforcement from the co-parent when you suggest other ways to deal with issues.
If the co-parent is unwilling to change his views on a topic and it is having a detrimental effect, it may be time to have a mediator attempt to discuss what has happened with both of the parents. The mediator and the parents can then work on a plan to steer the child down a positive path. Many times, having a third person show opposing parents what has happened can open their eyes and minds to something they didn't want to see or think about when it was coming from the child's other parent.
Deciding What Is Most Important
It can be difficult to decide on what not to incorporate in your child-rearing practices, especially when it comes to faith. Christianity is a big part of who you are and you may not want to suppress any of your beliefs for the sake of your co-parent. However, your child's other parent also has strong beliefs about how he or she wants to raise your child. The most important part of raising a secure, open minded and responsible child is providing a structured environment that presents many different views in order to allow the child to create his own identity. While you may desperately want your child to share your views, remind yourself that everyone is different and your child will also have to make a conscious choice about what he believes in in the future. Relish in your blessed gift of a child and do what God would want you to - being kind and considerate of others - including your co-parent when you disagree.