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Help me Handle my In-laws and our Religious Differences

It's one thing if your mother-in-law doesn't think your house is clean enough. Questioning your faith and the spiritual upbringing of your kids is another. Do you have any advice?

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents, caregivers and other members of the community are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting topics.

This week’s Moms Talk question relates to inter-faith marriages and coping with the in-laws.

Basic etiquette rules list religion among those topics to be avoided at dinner parties. But what about at family gatherings? This week’s Moms Talk question comes to us from a regular Moms Talk reader and commenter who needs some advice on a sticky family situation that she is dealing with. She has one set of religious beliefs. Her husband another. Her in-laws yet another. She and her spouse are “good” with the whole religion situation. Her in-laws however, are not. Plus, there are children involved and grandma and grandpa really believe the spiritual upbringing of their grandchildren is sorely lacking. And there-in lies the rub.

So, here’s what we want to know:

What advice do you have for coping with the in-laws and differing religious beliefs?

Our Moms Council members include: 

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mother of two. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International. 
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is almost 2 and a 5-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing.

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com.

Beth September 30, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Simply put, it is your choice how you bring your children up in every way-including religion. It is too bad that they are having such a hard time accepting that. Keeping the lines of communication open is key in helping to address any differences.
Mary Anne Looby September 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM
If your husband can't reign them in, just stand your ground and tell them to mind their own business. They got to raise their children, now they should let you raise yours! Often times interfering grandparents just need a good knock on the head to learn to keep their opinions to themselves.
Lisa Merk September 30, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Respect me, respect my house, respect my beliefs and I'll do the same for you. In laws or not.
Jennifer Elston October 01, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I agree with the ladies above. The grandparents have had their turns raising their children with/without religion. It's my turn now. My husband and I don't want the children to have any religious instruction, and sometimes in-laws on both sides say things to the kids about religion that we don't agree with.
Emma October 01, 2012 at 06:21 AM
(New American Standard Bible) - John 6:44 Jesus tells us: "No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." This is the Holy Spirit’s job, to call all men and women to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. Believers need to do their job of witnessing; but it is the Holy Spirit's work to draw them into the truth and knowledge of accepting Christ’s sacrificial death for the forgiveness of all their sins in order to enter into eternal life with Him. The heart of all true believers are compelled to continually reach out to their family and friends (and others) because they love them so much and want them to enjoy eternal life with them in heaven. The fact of the matter is: unless a person is drawn by the Holy Spirit and he/she decides to heed the call, the truths spoken by your well-meaning in-laws, who are believers, will not be taken seriously by you and their comments and concerns will not be considered as valid. I would encourage all believers in this situation to continue to pray for your loved ones. To remember to exemplify the peace and joy you have from your personal relationship with Jesus. Unless you are specifically asked a question about your faith, DO NOT SAY A WORD! Sincerely love on everyone with forgiveness for any hurtful remarks and give lots of love. The light that shines from your innermost self and your holy lifestyle is your witness to the glory of God. May God bless you!
Mary Anne Looby October 01, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Emma, you speak as a true Christian, and that is to be admired. Unfortunately, we are discussing children. We all know that children are like sponges and will soak up all that is said. If the Grandparents are true belivers they will follow God's command to respect their children's wishes, continue to pray for them and their grandchildren SILENTLY, and maintain a loving, respectful relationship with them.
Lisa Amey October 01, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Do the in-laws realize that this is an issue for you and that they are in essence interfering with the way you want to parent and raise your kids? If so, shame on them. If not, perhaps an open, honest, tactful discussion about boundaries is needed, with both you AND hubby presenting a united front on the matter.
Jennifer Elston October 01, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I don't mind talking to people about their religious preferences. I just don't want others to impose on us by trying to teach our children something we don't believe. When my daughter has questions, I always begin with, "Some people believe..." I want my kids to decide what they believe in on their own. My mother-in-law knows how we feel, but it doesn't stop her from making comments. For the most part, we ignore it. I know what we say has more weight than anything else.
Bette Isacoff October 01, 2012 at 10:36 PM
It is important for you not to engage when your in-laws start making comments, It is up to your husband to handle his parents. My mother-in-law took thirty-seven years to decide, on her deathbed, that I was a good wife to her son and mother to her grandchild. (I am Catholic, as is my daughter; my husband is Jewish.) I simply stated, calmly and respectfully and ONCE, that our baby would be baptized. There was no further discussion.

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