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Mom Questions Parochial School Influence
Q: Last year my husband and I had a great battle about sending my son to private school. We both want him to go to private school; I just don't want him to go to Catholic school. In the 18 years we've been married, my husband has never expressed any longings or needs to go to church. It is a sore fact in our marriage. Things got ugly and it put a great big scar on our marriage, but, I relented and our son attended first grade there. The education was wonderful, however, my son came out crossing himself and kneeling at pews and starting to believe things I feel strongly against. I need another private school. The one available here in Salem is much farther away and I hear does not teach the same way. I've gone to see it when school was out. I understand in second grade there will be a push to start confirmation classes with a view to first communion. Question: Should I try to put my son in this other school even if its teaching style is not the one I would pick? Should I let my son attend, tell him (he agrees right now, but he's seven-and-a-half, what does he know?) he will not be Catholic? If I haven't explained this very well, let me know. I'm sorry if this is too long. Thanks for any help.
A: This is a complex family problem, not just a decision over where to best school your son. At one level, there is the "great big scar" in your marriage, resulting from your giving in to your husband's wish for your son to attend this Catholic school. I sense that you still hold a grudge against your spouse for creating this problem. At another level, you really don't want your son to believe in the Catholic faith. The fact that he has begun to behave and think "like a Catholic" has caused you great distress and you fear that if you leave him in this school that he will become a Catholic despite your telling him that he can't.
I would recommend that you and your husband see a family therapist as a couple. This problem, your fear, anger and resentment, your marital discord, and your son's confusion and anxiety about the position he occupies in this dilemma will not go away with time. All aspects of this multi-layered dilemma will only intensify over time. Your son deserves two parents who are on the same page about this issue.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.