It is the season of sparkling lights, snow-tipped branches, seasonal foods and music and the commercial push to buy, buy, buy!! It is also the season that brings anxiety to many families. You may be challenged because you have a spouse who is not Jewish, a spouse who has a different cultural background or you may be a single parent. Some other anxiety-producing challenges could be overbearing in-laws or peer pressure to buy your child many and/or expensive gifts.
The important factor in all this stress is your child. I believe children need an anchor. That is the belief that they belong and they know who they are. It is their foundation. In mixed or single-parent families, try to instill the religion or culture that you and/or you and your spouse have agreed upon. The dominant beliefs are your child’s’ anchor. While at the same time instilling in them that daddy (or mommy) and their families celebrate differently and that is ok. Encourage your child to celebrate with them. After all, your spouses’ families love your children and want to share in the celebrations, knowing and respecting that your child’s’ anchor is Judaism.
With regard to your in-laws who feel the need to be pushy or express their opinions a bit too much, respect and self-restraint is the key. Your in-laws need to hear your calm explanation of how you and your spouse have chosen to raise your child. Hopefully, that explanation does not become your mantra! If you have verbal disagreements with your spouse or in-laws, please discuss them out of your childs’ earshot. If there is animosity, put it aside. Your respectful, calming demeanor is what your child needs to see and hear.
Gift buying! It is very difficult to not get caught up in the whirlwind and excitement of gift-giving. It is a pleasure to give! The giving of gifts runs the whole gamut. For example, some families give a gift for each night of Hanukah, some give one big gift, and some families give gifts for the whole family. Try not to go overboard with big expensive gifts. My opinion is if you give those kinds of gifts, what will your child have to look forward to and expect from you? Whatever you choose, stay true to what your common sense inner voice is telling you.
Let’s face it, this time of year can trigger anxiety. However, and I will tell you this all the time, you can be confident, strong and proud of who you are. Instill the anchor in your children, be a model for your children, show respect for other family members and be reasonable with your gift-giving.
Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!
Thanks for asking,
Got a question? All you have to do is email [email protected]. Your questions will be posted anonymously, so be careful with giving any detailed, identifying information (i.e.: a child’s name). Each month, she’ll select some questions and give you the answers in her column on TC Jewfolk.