I grew up in an interfaith family.
I have immediate family members who are Jewish,
Christian and Muslim. Because of my upbringing, December has become
a time of intense reflection for me. It is a time for me to think
about the religious beliefs of my family, my own beliefs and what I
want for my son. While I no longer practice the faith I was raised
in, I see the value of making sure my son has knowledge of
religious traditions other than the one we practice. Why? Why not?
We do not live in a world where everyone practices the same
religion. I think many of the conflicts that exist among people are
because we don't take the time to learn about one another. Some of
us like to stay in our bubbles and surround ourselves with people
who look and think like us. I personally believe that is not what
God intended. I believe that he made us different so that we would
come to know each other and marvel in that diversity.
So how does a parent do this? How do you raise your
child to be firm in their religious beliefs and have a healthy
respect for religious beliefs that may be in opposition?
What are your beliefs?
Have a conversation with your child about what your
family believes. How does your family live out those values? I
think it's so important for parents to talk to their children about
why they celebrate certain holidays, abstain from certain foods,
pray a certain way or wear certain clothes. This helps them see it
as more than something they just do, but as being connected to
their relationship with their higher power.
Head to the library
Our library's children's section will often have a
display about various religious holidays and traditions. There's a
nice collection of fiction and nonfiction books that are age
appropriate without going into theological discussions. Once you
are done with the books, you can have a conversation about
similarities and differences between your faith and the one shared
in the books.
Connecting with families of other
Does your child have friends of other faiths? Are
there families on your block who practice a different religion that
you can connect with? I realize that this may be easier for
extroverted families, but developing an understanding of interfaith
cooperation in your own backyard is perhaps the easiest place to
begin. It could be as simple as inviting them over for Passover
Seder, to break the fast during Ramadan or a Christmas Eve dinner.
Giving a disclaimer would be helpful. Be sure to inform your guests
that the purpose of the invitation is not conversion, but to share
your beliefs in hopes of promoting respectful interfaith
Pray about it
I know I have this listed last, but it's definitely
the way to begin any journey. I realize that everyone didn't grow
up as I did or work in an environment where these conversations
happen on a regular basis. So thoughtful consideration about what
types of questions or feelings this may stir up is important. You
don't have to learn about every faith in the world; you could start
with just one and see what happens. In the end you have to do what
works for you and your household.
How does your family approach interfaith
cooperation or dialogue?
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