With divorce comes change... a lot of it. One of those changes might be how your family approaches religion. If you and your spouse have parted ways and now have different views on incorporating religion into your child's life, then Christian co-parenting can be a challenge. Issues may even arise if you're on the same page and co-parenting as Christians. Thankfully, difficulty doesn't equate to impossibility, and with conscious thought, compromise and consideration, all parties can emerge as faith-based winners post-divorce.
Tips for Successful Christian Co-Parenting
To decrease the number of disagreements you have with your co-parent, it's wise to create a co-parenting agreement, regardless of your faith. This agreement will establish the foundation on which many of the decisions you and your co-parent make will be based. The agreement should include many lifestyle aspects for both parents, and address both of the parents' desires on the varied aspects of religion in their children's lives.
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 specific days and times of such services. If you and your co-parent disagree on religious participation, compromise where you can. Maybe the child will attend religious services/events when they are with the Christian parent. Maybe they participate in some aspects of Christianity, but not others. Remember that both parties will have to give a little if differing faith views exist.
- How will the child celebrate Christian holidays? Identify each holiday and determine who the child will be with for those occasions. Know that you may not be able to control what the other parent chooses to do on the holidays that they retain custody. If you can create a healthy co-parenting relationship, perhaps some aspects of the holiday can be celebrated together or in the very least at the same church. If your parenting relationship functions better completely apart, consider celebrating your own version of the holiday when you have your child.
- Field trips and other school activities are also important topics to address in parenting agreements. Discuss any field trips or other school activities should they pertain to religion. For example, if the school wants to take students to a particular museum that exhibits beliefs opposed to Christianity, the Christian parent may disagree with allowing the child to attend. Ask the school for information about potential activities, so you can decide on your child's participation together and note it on the co-parenting agreement.
Dealing With Opposing Beliefs
The world is full of diverse humans, all with their own set of beliefs, attitudes, and intentions. It is important to show your child there are many ways to handle situations, especially concerning people with different beliefs. Don't become fixated on how your co-parent chooses to guide your child through situations. Focus on how you raise them in the time you have them.
If you begin to see that your child is taking all of your co-parent's suggestions and you feel your child is negatively impacted, you can attempt to meet with the other parent and discuss concerns. Remember to keep the conversation respectful and non-emotional. Don't point fingers or accuse the other parent of leading your child astray. Focus on how the two of you can similarly guide your child to avoid any confusion. While your religious values might vary, you likely both still have your kid's best interests front and center.
If the co-parent is unwilling to meet you halfway regarding giving guidance to your child, and it is having a detrimental effect, it may be time to have a mediator step into the picture. The mediator and the parents can work on a plan to steer the child down a positive path that all parties can live with. Having a third person show opposing parents what has happened can often 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.
Tips for Faith-Based Parenting Post Divorce
As you work on your co-parenting relationship, you may find that you are heavily focused on your former partner, attempting to change their ideas, thoughts, and attitudes regarding religion and parenting. It is important as you move forward in your co-parenting journey to remember that you can only make changes in yourself, your own thoughts, and your own attitudes. Lead by example and show your child that while the marriage didn't pan out, you still respect and care for their other parent.
- Cherish your one-on-one time with your child. Think about the Christian values you hold most dear and live your life by them, leading children with examples of a faith-based life.
- Respect the other parent, their time, and their views. Let your child know that exposure to many cultures and religions is a gift, not a detriment.
- Stay within your church community. During these trying times, your congregation is likely to inspire, uplift, and support you.
- Talk openly with your kids. Help them with any shaken faith that may result from their family splittng up, and empathize with the thoughts and emotions they may be grappling with.
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 they want 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 views 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 they believe in. Relish in your blessed gift of a child and do what God would want you to - be kind and considerate of others - including your co-parent when you disagree.
Co-Parenting Is All About Compromise
Co-parenting is all about compromise. While you might focus on your faith, concerned that elements of your religion will be lost in your divorce, you should focus on healthy connection and compromise. Your child needs to know their parents have their best interests at heart, and this sometimes means sacrificing more than you wish to. Utilizing compassion and teamwork, both you and your former partner will be able to raise a healthy child who has exposure to key aspects of both of your lives.