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Keep the Peace in a 2-Religion Home

Apr 23 2014 - 6:53am

As I child, I spent my Sundays sitting in a pew with my mother and learning about various verses from the Bible. I also spent several nights of the year lighting yahrzeit candles and reciting Hebrew prayers alongside my father. Yes, I was one of many children, though not in my town, who was raised in a two-religion home. Yet despite what my friends said, I was not half-Catholic, half-Jewish (or cashew, as they lovingly called me). I was, in fact a full-fledged Catholic.

When I got older, I asked my parents why they chose the Catholic life for my sister and me. While I was expecting a complicated answer, they said the decision was easy. Since my father was not as religious as my mother, they agreed that my sister and I would be raised as Catholics.

I often wondered, though, what would have happened if both of my parents had strong beliefs. Would they have let us choose our own faiths? Would they have rock, paper, scissored our religion? Worse, would they have never gotten married, and thus I would have never been born? While my worries were hypothetical, they are very real to plenty of couples across the country. How do you raise a child in a two-religion home? Here, real members of two-religion families share their tips for bringing up a child under multiple faiths.

Teach God First and Religion Second

There is one element that ties all religions together, and that's a deity. If you and your spouse are having trouble choosing between you beliefs, focus on the common thread. Erin M. realized this after her son met with his Catholic school's priest. "He said that his priest told him that as long as he believes in God [1] the rest doesn't really matter," she says. "So we plan to teach them about God, but we're not going to be strict about it."

Try to Connect Your Two Faiths

A deity isn't the only common denominator when it comes to religion. Find what your faiths have in common, and teach those to your children [2]. "If your differing religions have areas of overlap in teaching or morality I would focus on those areas," Kristin M. suggests. Not only does this teach them important values, but it will give your child a sense of stability.

Tune Out Others' Opinions

Everyone from your mother-in-law to your best friend will have something to say about your child's religion. Don't let these comments get to you. "Me and my husband come from very different cultures and religions, and a lot of the hardships come from the in-laws," Jessi N. shares. "Once we learned to tune them out and figured ourselves out, it went a lot smoother [3]."

Don't Fight in Front of the Kids

If you and your spouse are struggling to reach an agreement, make sure to keep the discussions away from the tots. An anonymous Circle of Moms [4] user recalls her childhood [5] with a Christian mother and Muslim father. "There came a point in my life where I stopped believing, because I said, 'how could there be a God if he's making my parents fight over him.'"

Celebrate Both Religions

It's important that you expose your child to every aspect of their religions, from the services to the celebrations. Take a cue from Minna, who has found a way to balance both her and her husband's beliefs [6]. "I'm Methodist and my husband is Jewish," she says. "We celebrate both religions' holidays and say generic blessings every night. It can get crazy, but fun, especially when Hanukkah and Christmas collide." Anna P. has taken a similar approach, making sure to keep the major religious aspects out of it. "We celebrate traditions from both of our chosen faiths [7]," Anna says. "When he is old enough to ask questions we will answer them as openly and honestly as we can."

Don't Force Anything

As much as you want your child to follow your faith, it is ultimately up to them to chose their belief. Cindy D. was raised in a two-religion home and wishes her parents had given her more of a choice [8] when it came to faith. "I wish that I was not forced to go to both churches," she admits. "For this reason, as an adult, I do not attend church — I feel 'church burn out.'"

Push Respect

When teaching your child about religions, make sure not to insult any other beliefs, especially your spouse's. "As long as nobody feels superior and thinks their religion should take precedent, it should work out," Gisele R. says of two-religion homes [9]. Carolee Y. adds that respect is, ultimately, the base of all religions [10]. "You don't have to believe in something to respect either it or the person who believes in it."

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