Interfaith marriage is becoming more popular every day, which bring about the question, what about interfaith divorce?
Much of what is available for reference approaches religious observance from a marriage perspective. However, when you marry, you’re invested in cooperation and acceptance so an interfaith solution seems probable.
When you divorce, cooperation and acceptance are usually not the first priority. As a result, instead of demonstrating love and tolerance, things on which most religions are based, children of divorce may witness behavior that insists on the superiority of a particular faith. A child’s allegiance is not just checked when he or she goes back and forth between hones, but as he or she goes back and forth between their parents’ religions, as well.
Many say this is confusing for a child, but everything is in the approach. If you were a practicing interfaith home prior to the divorce, that same tolerance should be demonstrated after the break-up. If you don’t you’re sending the message to both the child and the other parent that tolerance and respect end once divorced — and the essence of positive co-parenting starts with tolerance and respect.
Regardless of how you choose to navigate this issue, here are some things to consider when you have a conversation with your coParent about raising your child across two religions.
- Together decide on what you’re willing to compromise and what is nonnegotiable. In other words, will you agree to discuss your individual faith openly with the children, but before they actively participate in a religious ritual or training, i.e. Confirmation or Bar Mitzvah, approve that both parents must agree (unless your parenting plan designates one parent has sole decision-making power for religion).
- Decide how you will observe the different traditions associated with your faith.
- Will the holidays be approached from a religious point of view or will they be approached secularly? A little of both?
- Are there any holidays or traditions that complement each other?
- Are there things you have done during your marriage that helped you blend two faiths that you both would like to continue now that you are divorced?
- Demonstrate respect every day, not just the holidays
Stay away from comparing on any level — Mom’s house/Dad’s house, Mom’s rules/Dad’s rules, and certainly not Mom’s religion/Dad’s religion. Teach your children that there will always be differences, but to treat those differences with respect establishes a good foundation and models how to problem solve constructively.
- Don’t badmouth the other religion
When talking to the kids, learn to share your point of view without being defensive or making unkind remarks about the other religion.
Again, that forces a child to choose. If you need a safe place to have discussions, consider a coParenting coach, mediator, or therapist to help you come to an agreement. Never argue religion in front of the children.
Finally, understand the pressure you put on your children when you cannot gracefully maneuver between two faiths after a break-up. Today bible study, tomorrow catechism, Thursday night Kingdom Hall meetings and Sunday church, just as an example. Overscheduling frequently overwhelms a child and could possibly backfire.
Ultimately, when a child grows up, he or she will decide how they want to incorporate religion and spirituality into their lives. If you have modeled the values of your religion (love, kindness, compassion), you have done your job and prepared them for the life ahead of them.
To view another great article for coParents about navigating faith activities, view this page here.