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my two grandchildren live with us and our next-door neighbours are very kind and helpful and will babysit at a moment’s notice. However, they’re quite religious and while we’re not, we are at least in touch with our Jewish heritage. we tend to take the best of both worlds – celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah, and Easter and Passover as big family events rather than religious festivals. we have no argument at all with our neighbours’ Christian beliefs or even with their explaining them to the kids. what I’m not at all happy about is that some of their attitudes are not just traditional but downright bigoted. I found my youngest grandchild in tears recently because she’d been told Halloween was wrong. what should I do?
Use this as a marvellous opportunity to teach your grandchildren about respecting other people’s differences. Encourage your little ones to be polite but also to tell the neighbours that they’ll talk it over with you if they’re told anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or uncertain. I’d also go next door and talk to your neighbours. Tell them how much you value their care and kindness to your family, but point out that your attitude to religion is very different to theirs. Explain that you feel Halloween and other such events throughout the year are harmless excuses for a bit of fun for the children – nothing more than a reason to dress up and play games – and that you can see this may throw up points of contention that you’d hate to cause conflict between you. Say that you clearly do have some differences and you’d like to respect theirs, as long as they equally respect yours. But if they can’t keep those boundaries I’m afraid all the free childcare in the world just isn’t worth the potential upset to the children.