Finagling where to spend a holiday and which traditions to meld together as a couple becomes more complicated when children arrive.
But adding another layer of complexity? When two people practice different faiths - or disagree about a higher power existing at all. Navigating holidays or religious traditions can be tricky when interfaith partners are deciding how to incorporate children.
For example, perhaps an in-law wants to know when the baptism or naming ceremony will be. Preschool decisions include religious options. Or it's unclear if and who puts up holiday decorations.
"I have several families who are interfaith marriage, and they have a hiccup when the child is old enough to understand, to comprehend," said San Diego-based psychologist Dr. Azmaira Maker.
As Easter and Passover approach - or separate holidays even collide - when and whether to involve children in religion can easily slide into conflict. And it can affect children's lives in more concrete ways than parents might think.
"This is impacting your kid on a daily basis," Maker said. "This is not something esoteric, theoretical."
Interfaith marriages are common in the U.S., especially among young people who've recently gotten hitched.
A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 39 percent of Americans who'd married since 2010 had a spouse of a different religion. Only 19 percent of couples who'd wed before 1960 said they were in an interreligious marriage.
Experts offered tips on approaching what might masquerade as an abstract topic.
First, discuss between partners. Ideally, talk about your parenting style before you get married.
Seattle Rabbi Ted Falcon said a good question for couples to tackle is, "What do you do differently in your life because of your faith?"
Even among those who identify as religious, Falcon, who tours with blended spiritual speakers The Interfaith Amigos, said he often sees people fairly loosely tied to those beliefs.
"That said, what is important for couples to know when they get together is to what degree each is attached to their own faith and tradition, and how they imagine children," he said.
Know that the conversation can and should continue, as you both might feel different down the road. Maybe one spouse has a life-changing moment that amps up faith before parenthood nears; maybe another's religious fervor ebbs.
Each person's faith is laden with layers of meaning, explained Dr. David Hauser, a clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University.
Part of the difficulty of these conversations, he said, is the necessary gray. People might leave a conversation without plotting a steady Sunday plan for the next 18 years.
"People struggle with having any kind of conversation that doesn't arrive at some kind of conclusion or finality," Hauser said.
But that flexibility is key, experts said.
Be open-minded. Both people might want to allow space to reimagine their views. For example, is it possible for a child to be Jewish and still celebrate Christian holidays?
"I think when people come in with a very close-minded approach to teaching about religion, that's when we get stuck," Maker said.
Part of this will create conversations about the parents' own comfort level.
"Can they live with the nuances?" Maker said. "Or does it have to be pretty clear-cut, black and white: 'This is not really a process, this is a faith, and it's clear. And this is how I want to raise my child.' "
Discuss not only what you want, but why. Hauser said a conversation about religion and incorporating your children should center on what religion means to you.
Maybe you feel passionately about passing on the Muslim or Hindu beliefs and practices your family imparted. But what does it mean to you _ celebrations with extended family? Meditative moments? Or maybe you want your child to attend Sunday school because it was formative throughout your own childhood.
Get to the core of what you enjoy and embrace, so you can communicate what you want your child to encounter.
"What's so important is that you understand your partner's belief system and where it comes from," Hauser said.
That could also include acknowledging that religion is less, not more, important than you thought. Maybe getting a Christmas tree is key, but not so much reading the Bible story.
"A lot of Christians observe, for example, Christmas as a family thing, exchanging gifts, but in fact they don't believe a word they're saying," Falcon said.
Don't wait for your child. Parents might assume they can hang back and let children decide faith on their own or bring it up themselves.
But children are curious, cautions Maker.
"Kids ask questions about everything," she said. "If your kid is going to preschool by 2 or 3, they're being exposed to the word 'God.' Just like when kids salute the flag, the word 'God' is in there."
Plus, a small child might bring up spiritual questions in small ways, she noted.
"Even when a kid sees a dead bug, some kid says, 'That bug's going to heaven,' " said Maker, who also tackles talking to kids about tough topics in her book, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children."
Consider, for example, the specific religion and when a child starts to participate in it - Hebrew school, for instance. It might be right away, in the case of an infant's baptism or a naming ceremony.
Resist the temptation to avoid the conversation. Children will have something chugging along in their mind either way, Maker said, so steer them with clear statements.
"A kid's confusion in their imagination is far worse than the actual facts," she said.
Consider a crisp, honest explanation like, "We are going to have our family do this in this way, where you come to church with me but dad doesn't. But we're going to respect each other in the process. That's it. Do you have any questions?"
Support each other's decisions. This doesn't necessarily mean that an agnostic partner should be guilted into attending church.
But after you communicate together, make clear who is participating in what. And back each other up _ especially against meddling but well-meaning in-laws.
"It's just the two partners making this decision," Maker emphasized.
Within one of her client families, the father is Christian and the mother Jewish in a blended family with children. Every December, conflict crops up around Hanukkah and Christmas _ some kids set up Christmas decorations, with confusion about which celebration takes precedence.
"It's simple stuff, but it creates tremendous tensions for the family," she said.
She suggested that each support the other - the Christian father should buy Hanukkah presents; the Jewish mother should lug out the Christmas decorations. This sends a message to the children that participating in both is welcome, she said.
Above all, Maker said, make sure children don't feel tugged between two parents.
"That's toxic for kids," she said.
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