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Old 04-02-2013, 05:51 PM   #1
IvyandLace
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How to prepare kids for relatives with differing lifestyles/values OP POSTS #94

In light of the recent holiday and subsequent get-together with family members that we do not see very often, my husband and I were curious as to what other parents do to prepare their own kids for spending time with relatives (kids and parents) with differing lifestyles/values. I am not looking for a what you think is "right" or "wrong"-more what you think works with maintaining your own values and, yet, keeping the peace during family get-togethers.

Do you make sure your kids are aware of your own "family" rules prior to the reunion or have you found that making a "big" deal of differing values is counter-productive? I can just imagine some kids putting foot in mouth by stating out loud "Well, my mom and dad don't make me do that" or "We don't believe in that". Do you find that you just "go with the flow" to keep down the stress, to let you enjoy family members you don't get much time with? Has this caused any tension with your family members before-maybe because they feel like you are judging them if you adhere to your values around them?

We have a daughter under one years of age so I can see this as something we will be facing in the future.

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Old 04-02-2013, 06:23 PM   #2
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As a more seasoned parent, I would advise you to always teach children that their parents are the final authority on what they may or may not do, even at a family event, so they should always check with you for permission before just jumping in. Kids always should know their own family rules and attempt to obey them even when parents are not present.

Other parents SHOULD have the sense to ask your permission before they include your children in a particular activity, but not everyone does. As a general rule, the best option is to try to give a legitimate reason other than a judgemental one for why you are not allowing your child to participate -- it helps keep the peace. (For instance, if all the kids are going out shooting, but you think guns are horrible, decline on the basis that your child is not conversant with gun safety and might inadvertently hurt someone else -- which is perfectly true, but not really your real reason.)

It gets trickier with younger children when you are not present, but as a general rule, I go with the philosophy that if I trust someone to take responsibility to keep my child, then I also must trust that person's judgement about what is or is not appropriate; if I don't, then I just won't leave them there. Also, accidents happen, and if my child gets hurt in one, I won't hold it against an otherwise trusted family member who meant no harm.

Now, food is a special case. If young children have medical reasons for not eating a particular thing, then you can politely ask family not to serve it, but otherwise it should be on the child to know to (politely) refuse foods that you don't approve of. If the child does not refuse and you later found out that a forbidden item was eaten when you were not present, then don't make an issue of it -- it is simply not worth it to cause a family rift over something like a soft drink or a hot dog unless there is a compelling medical danger involved. (Sorry, but I generally feel that ethical reasons are simply not worth the fight in such cases. Just remind the child again that you don't want them to eat/drink that substance, and move on.)

PS: If the issue is grace before meals, and you are not religious, then tell them to bow their heads and just stay quiet until it is over, because they should respect others' beliefs even if they do not share them. It is perfectly fine to decline to *lead* grace on the basis of shyness, so go with that if they like to have kids say grace (some families have that tradition.) My own extended family suddenly started saying grace before meals a few years ago, and it was not something that was ever done in my childhood home. If I'm asked to lead grace, I just simply decline on the grounds that I'm not comfortable doing it, and they move on.

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Old 04-02-2013, 07:16 PM   #3
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We're respectful of others. If my kids ask why they do something or why we don't, I'll explain about different beliefs or the differences in honoring a holiday or event. My kids KNOW what I'll be happy with and what I'll raise my eyebrows over.

My brother went from agnostic, to atheist, to evangelical. Our family has quite a range as far as observance, but we tend to focus on the family element over the religious. His political views and general openness to ideas have changed, too. We just enjoy our time together because we love each other. The kids are exposed to different ideas, which I think is valuable. The adults don't argue about polarizing issues at these occasions. We'll exchange our beliefs at more appropriate times.

As far as food goes, I'm restrictive about junk on a regular basis. But I relax when it's a special occasion. Everyone's system reacts a bit, but we don't have food allergies so it isn't a big deal. If grandma wants to deal with tummy problems or grumpiness from letting them stay up late, that's her choice!

Safety issues are a whole 'nother issue, for me. If someone doesn't respect my views on what is safe for my kids, then they don't get to be with them alone. For instance, my kids have spent the night with their biological grandmother every summer for the last few years when we go to visit our family. Last summer, when I offered to put the car seats in her car, she told me that there was no need. They wouldn't be driving anywhere. I offered again, she assured me that it wasn't necessary. I left and she immediately loaded the younger kids into her car to go get dinner! The local law was broken and she told them that if I found out they wouldn't get to stay with her anymore, so they shouldn't tell me. She was absolutely right. They won't be spending the night with her unless one of us is there, too.

I guess it just depends on where you draw the line. Differences are good and a great opportunity to discuss why things are important in your family, ignoring general safety isn't.
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Old 04-02-2013, 07:25 PM   #4
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Assuming the differing lifestyle doesn't involve anything illegal or dangerous (i.e. drugs, guns, violent movies/video games) I believe in pretty much just going with the flow. My dd is smart enough to know that different families have different values and that doesn't make anyone better than anyone else.

Growing up we spent a lot of time with 2 sets of cousins. One family was super strict and the other was live and let live. My family was somewhere in the middle. We loved going to both families because it was different than what we were used to and that in itself made it fun.

Once your child is old enough for play dates she'll be exposed to families with different values so you'll have lots of practice with this.
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Old 04-02-2013, 07:29 PM   #5
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Wow, we never thought to discuss this. LOL. pretty much we just throw all the kids in the basement with instructions not to kill anyone, not to play with the dogs roughly and to keep the noise down.

I've got every major religion in my family and my kids, neices and nephews are all use to it. One brother and uncle who are Muslim, couple of catholics, one aunt who is Jewish and caucasian, couple of protestants and my inlaws who are Jehovah witnesses thrown in with two cousins who are gay.

Truthfully I've never heard the kids talking religion or politics. they PLAY. play videos, play board games, dance, do kareoke (sp) and watch movies. In the summer they swim all night and day in the pool.

Usually the older cousins will keep an eye out on the younger and there are relatives all over the place usually yelling at some one to stop running.

I truthfully can't imagine a conversation where "values" come up? reunions and holidays are usually parties for us.
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Old 04-02-2013, 07:37 PM   #6
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It's hard to answer without having a better sense of what type of value you mean. If it's religious or political, I can't imagine how it would come up in such a way as to impact the kids until they are old enough to participate in a religious or political discussion. And at that point I'd be thrilled if they respectfully shared their ideas and respectfully listened to others.
If it's pretty much anything else, I guess I'd place it on my kid to know what's OK for them to do and what's not. If we didn't eat meat, I'd hope my child would just say "no thank you" when offered a hamburger, and woudlnt' make a big deal out of it. I have a friend who doesn't want her kids playing with toy guns. She mentioned it to me, and I'm perfectly happy making sure the star wars blasters are put out of reach before her son comes over, so if it's something that is really important to you, I can't imagine the harm in mentioning it, but for the most part, I'd just go with the flow around holidays.
If you have a more specific example, it might help people give more useful input.
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Old 04-02-2013, 07:47 PM   #7
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Dh and his brother have different personalities and have each raised their kids differently. Throughout their lives, we have had family discussions with our kids as various topics have presented themselves. So when they saw their cousins our kids understood that things we did are different than their cousins. Not right or wrong but just different. It's good for kids to see differences. And the kids have a great time together.

A for instance is that we don't have guns in our home. It's just not an interest of Dh. However, his brother does and taught our kids how to shoot and gun safety. I was glad the kids had the opportunity to be near a gun, shoot it and learn safety from a trusted adult.
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:03 PM   #8
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I have always just told my DS (DD is too young yet) that different parents have different rules and that he has to follow my rules regardless. Though holidays, vacations, visits, and such are special occasions and the rules tend to be relaxed a bit.

As for having a difference in values/views, I tend to keep my kids out of that. DH and I will never leave DS or DD alone with MIL and step FIL. MIL likes to bad mouth me and FIL in front of the kids. I will not have my children made to feel guilty for loving their mother and grandfather. Therefore, I limit contact with her.

Now, my younger sister and my SIL both raise their kids differently than I do. And that is OK. They do what works for them. But I trust them to not harm my kids or let them do anything that I would grossly disagree with. There is a balance there. While we may have different views/values, they won't violate mine. That is the important distinction.
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:26 PM   #9
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We deal with that issue some. We have very conservative values, homeschool, watch very little TV, dress conservatively, etc. It's mostly the adults that cause most of the issues by offering to turn on TV shows we don't watch and buying them Christmas gifts that we simply can't let them use.

We role play before a lot of family gatherings, but not with names or by telling them how we disagree with other people. For example, we'll say things like, "So what's the family rule on watching TV? Are you allowed to watch shows that Mommy or Daddy haven't approved? Is that just at home, or is it when we're at other people's houses, too? What should you do if someone turns on a movie for you?" I'd never say, "Aunt Beatrice lets her kids watch horrible shows, so don't watch anything she turns on."

Before Christmas and birthdays, we remind them that we want their presents to remain closed in their boxes until we've gotten home so that no little pieces get lost. Sometimes we have had to get rid of presents family members have given them, and it's just better if they haven't played with it and we can give it to Goodwill sealed up with all its parts in a box. (We do replace the gifts with something else, since it is sad taking toys away from your kids.) We do have to tell them after the fact that if Aunt Helga asks how they enjoyed the toy we took away, they just need to tell her thank you and that they appreciated it. That does have some awkward potential, but fortunately, most of the toys we object to go to older children who can understand how to handle the situation gracefully. I can't really imagine an objectionable toy for a 3 or 4 year old. The biggest offender is books, but any child old enough to read chapter books is old enough to understand manners.
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IvyandLace View Post
In light of the recent holiday and subsequent get-together with family members that we do not see very often, my husband and I were curious as to what other parents do to prepare their own kids for spending time with relatives (kids and parents) with differing lifestyles/values. I am not looking for a what you think is "right" or "wrong"-more what you think works with maintaining your own values and, yet, keeping the peace during family get-togethers.

Do you make sure your kids are aware of your own "family" rules prior to the reunion or have you found that making a "big" deal of differing values is counter-productive? I can just imagine some kids putting foot in mouth by stating out loud "Well, my mom and dad don't make me do that" or "We don't believe in that". Do you find that you just "go with the flow" to keep down the stress, to let you enjoy family members you don't get much time with? Has this caused any tension with your family members before-maybe because they feel like you are judging them if you adhere to your values around them?

We have a daughter under one years of age so I can see this as something we will be facing in the future.

IVY
Making a big deal about things is counter productive. It creates more drama. Best to be "matter of fact" with people & your kids and drop it.

I would say that we talk in private with our kids BEFORE an outing about what they can and cannot do.

If we know there is a "sticky situation" we will face, then we will discuss what we should say if faced with an uncomfortable moment and believe me, it happens in my family as we are very vocal.

Now that my kids are older (21 & 16) I even employ their help sometimes, esp. during the recent elections. We will give "code words" and all that jazz in case my hot buttons are pressed.

My parents are old and I am getting there myself and would prefer not to engage.
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:30 PM   #11
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We've been teaching our kid since day one that all families are different. He knows our rules, knows what will happen if he breaks them, and knows that not everyone has the same rules - some are more strict, some less so. So he pretty much goes with the flow in all situations. Mellow kid (how, I don't know.)
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:48 PM   #12
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My DD is only 4 so we haven't encountered too many problems yet, but my in-laws and most of our friends with children are conservative Christians whereas DH & I are agnostic/atheist... so there's going to be issues to be dealt with in the future, I'm sure. As for now, when our friends say grace before a meal, we stand quietly and allow them to do their thing & have instructed DD to be respectful and quiet. The preschool she attends isn't a Christian school per-say, but it is in a church and they do say a short little grace before snack time. DD has been told that she can choose to say it or not say it but if she doesn't, she is to sit quietly while everyone else does and wait for them to finish before she touches her food. She has also noticed that we don't say anything like that at home.

While we're very committed in our beliefs and raising our children w/o any religious grounding until they express interest in it, we're pretty go with the flow. Guess it's kind of the result of our surroundings. If we were pig-headed on the matter, we'd have no one to hang out with!

If it's simple a matter of rules & behavior differences, we don't go with the flow though. DD is to follow our rules, no matter what. BIL & SIL are a lot more lax with their boys and the kids tend to clash when they're all together. For the most part, DD keeps to herself because they kind of overwhelm her and she's naturally more laid back and a rule follower, but on occasion she'll run around with them and we're always the "mean parents" that put a stop to her behavior while BIL & SIL say nothing to their kids about their matching behavior. It is what it is though. They're family. They respect the way we raise our kids & we respect the way they raise theirs, even if it does happen to be different.
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:51 PM   #13
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I don't remember a time when we didn't talk to the kids about the fact that different people have different beliefs and that it is important to be polite and respectful about those beliefs. DH & I are agnostic, I come from a Catholic family, his is Protestant, and two of our three kids attend a Catholic school so this is ground we're used to treading. It has never been problematic. The kids know that they're expected to be courteous, follow house rules without objection unless they're being asked to do something they know we wouldn't allow (ie if the host says grace they're not to resist just because we don't do it at home), and go with the flow of the gathering/event.
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NYEmomma
My DD is only 4 so we haven't encountered too many problems yet, but my in-laws and most of our friends with children are conservative Christians whereas DH & I are agnostic/atheist... so there's going to be issues to be dealt with in the future, I'm sure. As for now, when our friends say grace before a meal, we stand quietly and allow them to do their thing & have instructed DD to be respectful and quiet. The preschool she attends isn't a Christian school per-say, but it is in a church and they do say a short little grace before snack time. DD has been told that she can choose to say it or not say it but if she doesn't, she is to sit quietly while everyone else does and wait for them to finish before she touches her food. She has also noticed that we don't say anything like that at home.

While we're very committed in our beliefs and raising our children w/o any religious grounding until they express interest in it, we're pretty go with the flow. Guess it's kind of the result of our surroundings. If we were pig-headed on the matter, we'd have no one to hang out with!

If it's simple a matter of rules & behavior differences, we don't go with the flow though. DD is to follow our rules, no matter what. BIL & SIL are a lot more lax with their boys and the kids tend to clash when they're all together. For the most part, DD keeps to herself because they kind of overwhelm her and she's naturally more laid back and a rule follower, but on occasion she'll run around with them and we're always the "mean parents" that put a stop to her behavior while BIL & SIL say nothing to their kids about their matching behavior. It is what it is though. They're family. They respect the way we raise our kids & we respect the way they raise theirs, even if it does happen to be different.
Love your approach!
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Old 04-02-2013, 08:52 PM   #15
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As far as "rules" we always say to go with whatever is stricter. It our rules are stricter than the host's rules, our rules still apply. If the host's rules are stricter than ours, the kids are to respect those rules.
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