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Q: We will be celebrating our first holiday season with our six-month-old son (our first child). Although it doesn't make any difference this year, we are concerned if celebrating two holidays, Hanukkah and Christmas, as he grows up is a healthy practice. We have married friends of different religions and ethnic groups who do this but we also know others who say it's confusing and harmful to celebrate both families' religious and cultural traditions. What's best for kids?
A: Families where the two parents are from different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds must discover ways of celebrating the holiday season which are both comfortable and rewarding for them.
How you celebrate your holiday rituals and traditions should flow naturally from how you are raising your children. The everyday importance of and practice of your respective faiths and cultural traditions should determine the extent and nature of your religious and/or secular holiday celebrations.
Your holiday celebrations will be unique to your family as you both include your favorite childhood holiday traditions in your celebrations. You have an opportunity to teach your children sensitivity and respect for your and others' religions and cultures as you explain the meaning of your own traditions.
I understand why some people argue that only one parent's religion and culture should be celebrated during these holiday seasons - a child must have a clear understanding of who she is. I believe, however, that parents who choose to share their respective religious and cultural holiday traditions with their children do indeed give them a solid identity, one based in the cherished family values and traditions of their parents.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.