Ex-etiquette: If you put your child first, there's a compromise somewhere

Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.”

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Jann Blackstone

Q. Having a daughter was not planned. My child’s father and I were in college and not as careful as we should have been. Being so young, we discussed very little prior to having our child and when we broke up, agreed on very little. She is now 6 and we have both changed substantially. We both now go to church and want to instill what we understand and believe in our daughter. While we are both Christian, my daughter’s father has chosen a much stricter path than I have. Although we are somewhat on the same page, he often takes our daughter to a cemetery to pray, not because relatives are buried there, but because he chooses to do so. My daughter comes home telling me it scares her. I told him, he didn’t believe me and dismissed my concern. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. Religious differences are tough to tackle. It’s more than, “I like her hair long/I like her hair short.” It’s passing on your understanding of life. And if you have found something that centers you, then you want to pass that on to your child. However, if there is no meeting of the minds, how do you decide how to go forward?

You are actually fortunate — at least you both worship in a similar manner. When this gets really difficult is when a child is forbidden to enter a particular place of worship because of the parents’ beliefs. Working in the court system for years, I have seen this handled a few different ways. Most of the time the judge has made the ruling that the child worships as the custodial parent — if the child is with you, she goes to your place of worship. When the child is with dad, she goes to his. This is not written in stone, however. A judge makes their ruling on the evidence presented to them.

My observation is your biggest problem is not that you worship differently, but that you can’t discuss a very important subject. I don’t know how you are approaching Dad, but if he feels attacked, he is probably taking your concerns very personally and gets defensive when anything is mentioned. A compromise is needed here. (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #10, “Look for the Compromise.”) You can’t find a compromise when you feel you must defend yourself.

How can you find a compromise for something like religion? Use your child’s best interest as criteria for the decision-making. In this case, the location seems to be the biggest concern — the cemetery. So, you both must ask yourselves, without any personal prejudice, other than church, is the cemetery (since it has been reported to scare her) absolutely the only place Dad can pass on his faith? Is there another place, like a serene park or the beach, where they can pray together in the same manner?


If a child is frightened, they are more likely to reject than accept.

I understand this is a very sticky subject, but I used this reader’s question specifically to demonstrate that if you put your child first, there is usually a compromise somewhere. You just have to find it — in the name of your child. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, . ©2020 Jann Blackstone Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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