The family-focus of many faith communities can make coParenting stressful in the early months of post divorce or separation.

With a generally strong value placed on marriage and family, faith communities sometimes struggle with a separating couple. The now single parent seems out of place. There may be judgments and rumors to dispel. The couple may experience feelings of embarrassment, failure, guilt, unworthiness, and plain old awkwardness or self- consciousness. What was once an easy, welcoming place, may now feel fraught with memories, failure, and uncertainty.

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Find strategies for continuing your faith-based life that also supports your child in his/her faith community. When the sanctuary becomes one more place to navigate feelings about how to share space with your ex-partner/spouse, coParents may find ways to ease the tensions by:

  • Having a frank and constructive conversation with the religious leadership about how to separate and respect each other in the intimate space of worship
  • Planning ahead on how to share or divide religious activities/space with your coParent
  • Attending separate services
  • Attending different communities, if that’s what makes the most sense
  • Playing an instrumental role in helping them maintain their own community of peers, much like their school friends/relationships, which may go beyond your personal religious practice

Developmentally, children will come to a point where they express their own thoughts and feelings regarding religious practice. Like every parenting step we take with our children, you will be faced with determining when your children have a say in their religious practice.

When coParents are in alignment on this issue, it’s easier to hold boundaries and family tradition. When they are not, the child will use the split to his or her advantage. We encourage parents to recognize that ongoing conflict between coParents will rarely do good. Trust children to mature into the best people they can and will be, whether they are participating in religious activities when in residence at your home, or their other home, or not at all.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Karen Bonnell’s book, THE CO-PARENTS’ HANDBOOK.  For more information on Karen or her book, visit


About Karen Bonnell

Karen has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families facing transition, loss, stress and change. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Karen has been Board certified and licensed as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner since 1982. She served on the faculty of University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University & Seattle Pacific University before beginning full-time private practice in 1984. She continues to be a provider of Professional Continuing Education to both health care and legal professionals.

Karen served on the Board of King County Collaborative Law and Collaborative Professionals of Washington. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Her work is found through Unhooked Books: