Statistically, about 42% of all families contain some form of blended-ness or step-ness. In other words, many children live with a step-parent, a grandparent, and/or half or step-siblings. The numbers related to gay and lesbian individuals, while far from conclusive are unstable ranging from 3.8% to over 30%. But, let's assume it’s safe to say that many families have at least one gay family member (our or not). Divorce rates have consistently been reported as being over %50 but is being reexamined with some offering that the rate is around 40% and declining. Finally, intermarriage couples (marrying outside of your ethnic group) have steadily gone up since 1967, when the courts declared it intermarriage legal. According to one source, some 11-million marriages were documented in 2015.
Now consider how the families all over the country may be experiencing at dinnertime at Christmastime might. Think about it, the differences in food traditions; the ignorance about cultural or folkways, the fear of appearing stereotypically anything, and finally, the concerns about being accepted. Imagine a dis-united nation family around the table trying to have a civil discussion but not really knowing how; trying not to bias one dish over another, but totally ignoring anything that looks interesting or unfamiliar.
Now, imagine each person from the straight and exotic to the gay and interesting. Right, everyone is thinking that everyone else is different when in reality they all are. Cultural difference is but one of the problems at this fictitious dinner table. How to manage the awkward silence and the natural and expected preferences for one’s own traditional foods is a larger metaphor for the dilemma of blended families. Here’s what Dr. Debra, inclusion expert suggest for this very beautiful family opportunity:
- Take Notes from the Children
- If you have not thought about “how” you are going to interact with each other before dinnertime takes notes from the Children’s Table. Because mostly they are the only ones who are having fun.
- Children are being honest about what they like and don’t like and they are accepting each other’s differences
- Children are being curious about each other’s difference, skin, hair, foods, everything
- Pick an EmCee.
- Let the most relaxed and well-liked member of the family have the first words. This person might be the family comedian
- Have a planned program
- A question prepared in which everyone is asked to respond.
- Have everyone share something about their family’s tradition for special gatherings (Does not have to be related to Christmas)
- Be Curious.
- Open the discussion for anyone who would like to ask a question to learn more about what is shared in #4.
- Schedule other gatherings
- The family should meet just to hang out and learn more about each other
Finally, if your family tries any of the above suggestions, it will change your family-times together for as long as you gather as a family. Bon Appetite, Family.