Raising Lexington: An Interfaith Family's Secrets of Success

Being an interfaith family has its challenges, but in the end the rewards outweigh them all.


This is the time of year that I get the most questions about life as an interfaith family. They are all good, honest questions, so I never mind sharing how we do things.

To be honest, when I met my husband more than 10 years ago, our different faith backgrounds didn’t cause us to skip a beat. One reason may be that we have both experienced “the other side,” so we were no strangers to each other’s holidays, traditions and culture.

One of my dearest friends and neighbor growing up is Jewish, and I swear I spent as much time at her Temple as I did at my church. I loved the rituals, the stories, the kind Rabbis who always welcomed me. And to be clear, my husband jokes that he is “Jew-ish” and I don’t pretend to be a role model for the Presbyterian Church. Sometimes, I think I went to that church for its proximity to my childhood home.

So there's that, and my husband's and my openness to other religions and willingness to teach our kids both. It's the right mix for this interfaith family.

What is the trick to making this all work? Openness, flexibility and a willingness to let you child choose one or none of the above.

First and foremost, we are open and honest with our kids about how we were raised and our feelings about religion. When my kids come with me to visit my father’s grave, a whole host of questions come up and that was the springboard for the first of many conversations about life after death. I tell the kids what I think and then I tell the kids what my husband thinks and finish by telling them they can decide what they believe and they can change their minds (a lot). We do the same with our talks about Jesus and God.

Flexibility comes into play this time of year the most. We celebrate Christmas and Chanukah, and sometimes they overlap each other.

In past years the kids where too young to understand most of this but this year in one moment we were lighting the 2nd candle on the menorah and the next the 2nd candle on the Advent wreath. I asked the kids what they thought about that. The candle theme was not lost on either, so we went with it. If we had felt this would be too confusing for the kids, then I would have shown a little flexibility gone without the lighting of the Advent wreath.

Finally, and sometimes this is the hardest one for parents, is letting your child make their own choice when it comes to religion. For our kids that may mean Judaism, Christianity or none of the above. We have decided to be OK with that. That is a hard pill for me to swallow at this stage, but if there is one thing I am 100 percent sure of it is that you do not have to be a religious person to be a good person. And at the end of the day I would rather my kids know a little bit about two religions than no nothing about any religion.

So happy December, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Yule, Ashura or whatever religious or non religious holiday you celebrate this time of year.      

Valerie Sands December 11, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Love it Audra! We celebrate both holidays just like you do...openness and inclusivity are a must!
Carrie Wells Raho December 11, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Great article! Love it!
Susan Katz Miller December 12, 2012 at 11:54 AM
I'm so glad you wrote this story. You are not alone. Many families are making the choice to raise children with both family religions. My kids (18 and 15) show no signs of confusion. I will have a book out next fall profiling teens and young adults raised as dual-faith. For more, go to http://onbeingboth.com/
Kate Hornstein December 12, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Hi Audra--Nice article! My family is quite similar to yours as well (and hi Susan!) We have a chapter of Interfaith Community here in Cambridge for interfaith families and couples who want to more about both Judaism and Christianity and are interested in exposing their children to both religions. You can check us out at www.interfaithcommunity.org/boston


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