Raising child in multi religious family

Looking for advice and resources about raising a child where she will be exposed to multiple religious traditions and styles of relating to religion/spirituality. Between her two sets of grandparents and parents there are four different traditions/perspectives that are identified with, including atheism. There is huge variance in how central these beliefs and practices are to everyone’s life. I was raised in a very homogenous setting and am out of my depth here.

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You certainly may perceive yourself as having a challenging situation, but from my perspective you are lucky that different people in your extended family embrace spiritual traditions at all. In my small nuclear family (unfortunately all the grandparents are no longer with us), both my husband and daughter are very resistant to bringing spirituality into our home, to the extent that they make fun of even expressing gratitude at meals. So I wish I had your dilemma. I'm sure that your child will grow up with a very interesting take on spirituality. When he/she gets old enough, you can probably discuss different aspects of the different traditions so that your child can become more conscious of the different religious strands he/she has been exposed to. Perhaps he/she will get a Ph.D in comparative religions and write books on his/her crazy religious upbringing. I don't mean to sound glib and I'm sure it will be challenging, but I wanted to present a different perspective. Good luck!

As someone who grew up in an interfaith household, my advice would be to pick one which is "hers", but teach her about the others as well. It was very confusing and distressing to me to grow up in a household where we were taught a little bit (but not a lot) about both religions, and I really wasn't given tools or a path to express my own spiritual needs. It was difficult and sometimes painful to learn from scratch as an adult.

You can pick one tradition to be the child's, and still help other family members celebrate their traditions, and teach your child a bit about what other parents and grandparents and important people in her life believe and practice.

Now, I will admit that while I found growing up between traditions very painful, my sister didn't have a lot of problem with it. But I understand there is starting to be research that a number of us children of interfaith households who are raised as "both" find it distressing.

I wish you luck navigating this. It's not easy. In my own interfaith family, we've chosen one religious tradition to raise our children in, and will teach them academically about the others.

If I were the atheist parent, I would try to approach it in a very academic way, call everything a myth, and teach the kids about all the beliefs and practices in a matter-of-fact way. And tell everyone else to back off. Christmas would just be another day to decorate and celebrate, like Halloween. If I were the Catholic parent I would teach my belief and practice system, but put it in context by explaining the history of many religions, including mine. 

Check out a Unitarian universalist congregation close to you. It is a post-christian tradition (got kicked out of 19th century new England Protestant congregationalism) and became a tradition that intentionally explores multiple traditions (including atheism) from a liberal-humanistic perspective. A fair number of cross religious (many christian-jewish) couples and families. Most congregations are predominantly (though not entirely) filled with white liberals. Though most Unitarians do not identify as Christian or believe Christian dogmas, most congregations are culturally christian (biggest holidays tend to be Christian ones for example).

We are doing this.  My kids are in elementary and middle school now.

We decided to cheerfully celebrate all religious holidays with our extended family.  Many holidays can be celebrated as either deeply religious or as simply a fun tradition.  In our home, we celebrate most holidays as fun traditions, and skim over the deeply religious parts.

The harder conversations come when my kids realize that not everyone believes the same things.  I have told my kids that everyone has the right to believe what they really feel is right.  When they ask what I believe, I usually flip the question and ask what they believe.  It leads to some fun conversations.

The hardest situations involve family members that have religious beliefs that require conversion to the “one right way”.  These family members mean well, but I don’t leave them alone with my kids during holiday celebrations.  The holidays seem to be the time when well intentioned family feel the need to convert my kids, and they don’t seem to feel the need to convert them at other gatherings.

We happily accept gifts that have religious themes.  We get a lot of religious gifts!  They all have a place in our home.  

Somehow, our kids seem to navigate all the different religious beliefs coexisting in a way that seems effortless.  I was stressed about it when my kids were born, but looking back it wasn’t very hard at all.  I’m really proud that my kids are so accepting of everyone’s different beliefs.