Here are five ways you and your mate can make the holidays easier for all:
Be decisive: Deciding now how to handle religious holidays will make things easier down the line. Talk with your partner about possible areas of conflict and then create a strategy that works for you both. Plan what you’re going to say should family members confront your decisions.
Be yourself: You can’t be all things to everyone, so don’t even try. Make your holiday decisions, let people know, and then move on.
Be loyal: You and your mate are a couple and a team. When all the holiday spectacle subsides, you two will be going home together. So whatever guilt trips or power ploys extended family members might put on you, keep your boundaries.
Be prompt: Tell family and friends about your holiday plans earlier than later. If you can’t or don’t want to celebrate a holiday, tell them as soon as possible. You get the truth off your chest and this lets the others make alternative plans.
Be inclusive: Though it’s easier said than done, try to involve both sides of the family in your observances, if they’re open to it. Nothing full-blown here; rather, smaller is better — like caroling for an hour or sharing a meal of potato pancakes.
Despite generations of worrying about kids’ sense of identity, research shows that children brought up in an intercultural family aren’t usually destined for identity conflicts. Whether kids are raised in one religion, both religions or no religion has little or no impact on their mental well-being. The most important thing is that both parents work together on the same plan. If parents can’t bring together their goals and strategies for their kids’ faith development, the child will suffer. On the other hand, when parents do work together, children can develop a clear sense of personal identity while reducing the feeling of being caught between conflicting forces.
For intercultural couples, the holiday season is rarely straightforward. But the work you put into it can yield an experience of mutual respect, meaning and . . . fun!
Gary Singer, LCSW, is a therapist in private practice in Brooklyn. In addition to working with individuals, couples, and groups, he specializes in intercultural relationships and men’s issues. He can be reached at (718) 783.1561.