Mixing winter traditions and celebrations


Growing up in Britain in the
1960s, Wendy Board had a
pretty traditional English girl’s
life. Public schools, Anglican
background, church every Sunday.
So when she married a nice Jewish
boy from Toronto, their two very
different upbringings clashed…
right? Wrong.

In fact, four kids and 29 years
of marriage later, the couple
stands as a shining example
of how compromise and
acceptance can make for peace
in a household – even one where
the two parents come from very
different backgrounds.

“We raised the kids as both,”
says Richard Fogel, Wendy’s
husband. If anything the couple
noticed more cultural than
religious differences. “That fi rst
Christmas when Wendy expected
me to put up a tree, I said no at
fi rst!” He soon eased up and now
even enjoys helping with the tree.

Jennifer Kolari is a Toronto-based
family therapist and the
founder of Connected Parenting,
an approach that teaches parents
the techniques therapists use to
change undesirable behaviours.

“I think it’s beautiful to be
blended,” says Jennifer. In
fact in her own household
that combines Judaism and
Christianity, they joke that they
celebrate “Chrismukkah”!

If there are members of the
extended family that have trouble
embracing your new blended
traditions, Jennifer advises
setting boundaries to protect
your kids. For example, don’t
have religious debates during the
holidays, or in front of the kids.

In her practice, Jennifer sees
lots of families blending cultural
traditions, and has some tips
for those looking for holiday
harmony:

1.
Remember that kids
are open-minded.
They
are exposed to different things
everyday – whether it’s music,
TV or other forms of pop culture
– so by nature they are receptive.
It’s when the adults get uptight
about things that it can create a
problem for the kids.

2.
Don’t have a favourite
holiday.
This can be tough,
because most of us do have a
favourite. Jennifer says even if
we’re not vocal about it, kids
sense these things. Try to be
neutral about different holidays
throughout the year.


3.
Be sensitive around
Christmas.
As the most
commercial and ubiquitous of the
holidays, it’s easy to get caught
up in Christmas. In a household
that celebrates Christmas plus
other traditions, it’s important to
be aware of this. Try to balance
Christmas with other holidays.


4.
Make your own traditions.
Initiate a new tradition that’s
unique to your family, such as a
special meal or evening where
everyone gathers and names
what they are thankful for.
This can become an event that
everybody looks forward to.


5.
Throw yourself into the
other person’s holiday
.
Even if the celebrations are
foreign to you and not something
you grew up with, show your
kids and your spouse that both
holidays can be enjoyed with
no guilt. Learning as much as
you can about your spouse’s
traditions can help avoid
awkward situations.

Moms Andrea and Lianne cofounded WhereParentsTalk.com and co-host Parents Talk on Rogers TV. Together they have produced several award-winning parenting DVDs and web videos.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, December 2012.

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