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Considering Religion

How Will You Raise Kids?

By Lisa A. Goldstein

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Before Jodi and Jim Cook were even engaged, they discussed how they would bring up their children. Religion was a topic they covered extensively because the Buffalo, N.Y., couple agreed it was crucial for their children to have a religious background. Since Jodi was raised Jewish and Jim is Lutheran, they wanted to have only one religion in the house to eliminate any confusion for their children.

"We felt it was important to be on the same page before we had children," says Jodi. "Some people think that they can decide something like this after bringing their children into the world. However, it may cause a great deal of stress and negative feelings toward one another. Deciding this prior to having children gives you one fewer (and possibly difficult) decision to make at a time when your emotions may not allow you to think clearly."

Indeed, the general consensus from parents, parenting experts and clergy seems to be that religion is one issue that should be decided on before conception, if not before marriage.

Why Later Isn't Wiser

"Religion is a loaded issue for couples," says Tina Tessina, a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California who works with a lot of interfaith and inter-cultural couples on this topic. "Not only is it a personal choice, it also has generations of tradition and family pressure behind it. So differences in religion can be difficult to sort out."

If you put off the decision, it will only become worse later, she says, adding that if you come to an impasse, you should have a consultation with a member of the clergy or get counseling. If the problem is a religiously rigid family on one side, you can make your decision and provide a united front.

The last thing you want is for the religion decision to be the source of arguments and family struggles. This can begin as early as deciding whether to have a bris or a baptism. "If you have this worked out in advance, you can support each other when the greater family tries to interfere, and you won't fight about it," says Tessina. "If you don't work it out, every holiday, family tradition and religious occasion will be a source of struggle."

Your child will have a more solid sense of identity if she can look back and learn about all the religious things that were done for her as a baby, says Ronnie Friedland, editor of InterfaithFamily.com

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