Tips to help interfaith families get through the holidays

8candlescoverThe number of interfaith families in the United States today continue to grow, with almost 60 percent of Jews and a third of all Americans marrying out of their faith. The mix can make for some explosive times during the holidays if you’re not careful.

Simone Bloom Nathan knows this first hand. In fact, she was inspired to write the picture book “Eight Candles and a Tree” because her grandchildren, like many children across the country, are being raised in interfaith families and she’d been unable to find a book that acknowledged their situation.

And so we asked her recently to share tips for interfaith families like hers can celebrate the holidays. Here’s what she offered:

  • Make a conscious decision as a family to create and celebrate traditions that honor both faiths. There is no “right” way or “only” way to practice a religion or celebrate a culture, and interfaith families have a unique opportunity to make their own traditions and celebrations.
  • Show an interest in and enthusiasm for your significant other’s religion and culture. While you may not have grown up with it, it’s part of your family’s life now.
  • Connect your children to their grandparents and great-grandparents by telling and re-telling family stories. Children in a recent study who had high levels of self-confidence knew they belonged to something bigger than themselves.
  • Good communication is one of the foundations of a happy family. When children ask you about religion or culture, answer questions that you can, and offer to find out together about questions that you don’t know the answer to.
  •  Find opportunities to link with other interfaith families in your community. For example, the Interfaith Families Project of Washington, D.C. has weekly Sunday gatherings and educational programs that expose families to both Christianity and Judaism.

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