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Intercultural relationships and family gatherings

The cool weather along with rain has finally come in over Lake Michigan. The leaves are mostly all raked and the trees are looking bare. Snow will be in the Grand Rapids area very soon. There is a chill in the air but not yet the bite of winter. Now that Thanksgiving is here, all of the preparations for those special get-togethers are almost complete and in place, it’s time to take a break and enjoy the festivities. Black Friday, right around the corner, will surely be abuzz with shoppers looking for great deals at RiverTown Crossings, Woodland Shopping Center and Counterpointe Mall. Although, many can not afford to buy gifts this year, most will still have a very nice holiday dinner surrounded by friends and family. For some families, especially those with relatives from another religion or culture, having holiday get-togethers can be stressful events.

Meeting new family members

When a son, daughter or cousin has a relationship with someone from another race or religion, holiday events can become a source of tension. Whether the family is African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic or Asian, Catholic, protestant, Jewish or Muslim, racial tensions can flare. A newly married multi-racial couple may feel some apprehension about attending family get-togethers. It’s never easy meeting new family members but being the only person there who is racially or ethnically different makes things even more uncomfortable.

Concerns of multi-racial couple

A Caucasian woman who brings her Hispanic husband to a family gathering for the first time may worry that her relatives will have preconceived ideas about her husband and their relationship. If her husband has a heavy accent she may be concerned that her relatives can’t understand him and therefore won’t talk with him. Her husband may feel out of place with the family’s traditions that are different from his own family customs.

Helping to break the ice

Relatives who have good intentions may try to have conversations with their in-law to break-the-ice and make the couple feel more comfortable. Finding things in common like work, sports, TV shows or food can help ease tensions. Sometimes making jokes and using humor can help lighten the situation and make people laugh. Using uplifting humor rather than sarcasm or racial jokes usually works best.

Welcoming those who are different

Rather than looking at family gatherings as an unpleasant chore, a multi-racial couple should consider these events as their opportunity to open up communications, breakdown stereotypes, and improve family relationships. Differences can be over come with patience, knowledge, kindheartedness and forgiveness. Interracial couples really do contribute to society by bringing people face to face with their differences and their similarities. Family gatherings are a great place to start with welcoming those who are different.