Religious Ex Pushing Her Views on Their Kids

Q: Religious differences between my ex-wife and me had caused much turmoil in our lives but being that we are no longer married, it isn't much of a problem anymore. My ex and I have two twin boys. I have primary custody. Recently my boys stayed with their mother over a weekend. When my boys came home they showed me all of her religious literature she gave them to read. When I questioned her about this, she told me, "They are old enough to decide what they want to do." Mind you, they are both eleven. I don't have to put up with my wife any longer, but she does have visitation rights. How can I make it clear to her that I do not want her showing them that stuff? -David, 44

Dr. Anna: If you want to know legally if there is anything you can do, you'd best talk to a lawyer about your custody agreement. On the other hand, most eleven year olds are definitely capable of intelligent conversation and just starting to develop critical thinking skills. So, why not use this as an opportunity to help them develop those skills? This isn't going to be the only tough topic they are going to face in the next few years. Show interest in them and their thoughts. Ask what they think about this material. You can share your own experiences with religion, share your own thoughts and why you've come to the conclusions you have. Invite them into a real conversation. Coach them through handling this themselves. If they don't want the literature, how should they handle it? Ignore it? Ask her to stop? If they do want to look at it, how can they talk to you about it? You and your sons are a family—it's healthy to talk and make decisions together. Kids—especially young adolescents—need support in learning how to think for themselves and make good decisions. Luckily you are in the perfect place to help them along with this process.

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