Parenting Podcast: Interfaith Parenting
In this week’s parenting podcast, my colleague Dr. Paula Brody explains the issues that interfaith couples face as they make decisions about the religious identity of their children and their family as a whole. In my work, I have found that often even when a family has made a decision to raise child with a Jewish identity, the issues may feel as if they are ongoing, long after the couple had hoped they would be resolved. Sometimes couples don’t talk about religious identity because it is hard for them to articulate their needs and feelings about the role that they would like religion to play in their own lives. This may be because the conversations that they had with each other previously on this topic were at a basic level. Or, feelings change for whatever reason, particularly as hypothetical conversations meet reality.
One ongoing source of tension is conversations with extended family. Often the topic of religious identity is just avoided. As the winter holidays approach, I’d like to suggest a few tips for helping interfaith couples talk to their children. I encourage families to celebrate holidays with all of their family members. Parents can help children
- Define their religious identity. For example, a parent might explain, “You are Jewish. We love all of the members of our family, and one way we show that is by helping them celebrate the holidays that are important to them.”
- Tell them what to expect. Prepare kids beforehand by explaining what they are going to see and do. “We are going to help Grandma and Grandpa to celebrate their holiday, Christmas. They are going to give you gifts, and you are going to have a great time at their house. They will come to our house to help us celebrate Chanukah.” or “We are going to help Daddy celebrate Christmas, his holiday.”
- Express their feelings and ask questions. Encourage children to talk with you about whatever they are feeling, say when they are confused, and ask any questions they have. Sometimes they just need you to accept their feelings by saying something like, “Yes, December can be confusing.”
In general, make the discussion of religious identity a part of the list of things that the family talks about regularly. Don’t be surprised if young children ask the same question over and over again. Make it a comfortable and normal topic of conversation. Use it as an opportunity to share your love and acceptance for everyone in your family.
Arlene Chernow is an Outreach Specialist for the Union for Reform Judaism.
Spotlight on Welcoming Interfaith: This month the URJ is highlighting resources to aid your congregation in actively welcoming interfaith families into your community and encouraging their participation in your congregation. Also see resources for individuals in interfaith families.