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Like mother, (not) like daughter: When religious conversion causes a family rift

When Alana Raybon converted to Islam, it created a rift in her relationship with her devoutly Christian mother than lasted for years.
/ Source: TODAY

When Alana Raybon converted to Islam, it created a rift in her relationship with her devoutly Christian mother than lasted for years, papered over with silence and polite small talk. Mother and daughter describe their journey to reconciliation in the book "Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace." Click here to read an excerpt.

TODAY asked Alana and Patricia Raybon to share their advice for other families touched by conversion: What should parents know, and what should grown children know about navigating the tricky emotional territory around changing your religion?

Patricia Raybon’s advice for parents whose children change religions:

1. Go to God. Take your hurt, shock, anger or whatever you’re feeling to your God.

2. Allow yourself to grieve. But don’t get stuck in hurt and guilt. Take the long view, understanding you’re on a journey with God.

3. Ask your grown child about their choice. Why? Tell me more about it. Listen without judgment or arguing.

4. Seek God for wisdom and insight. Ask: What are you teaching me in this? About you, me, my child?

5. Focus on what you can control. Look for places and people to serve by your faith, worrying less about your grown child’s faith decision.

6. Avoid arguing. Talk about other things than religion. Instead, love your grown child. Actively. Don’t cut off your relationship.

7. Honor your child’s faith restrictions, if any. (Food or dress codes, for example.)

8. Find new ways to celebrate holidays you no longer share. In the meantime, on “ordinary” days during the rest of the calendar, look for ways to connect with your child.

9. Stay prayerful. Look for the good in life. Be your best self. The future is in God’s hands.

Read more: Read an excerpt of Alana and Patricia's book, "Undivided."

Alana Raybon’s advice for dealing with your parents when you’re converting:

1. Initiate the discussion. Ask your parents if they are willing to talk about your conflict, then commit to having a civil conversation.

2. Keep in mind that faith traditions should be the means to resolve family conflicts, not an impediment to peace. Use your faith to help you see solutions.

3. Try to remember that God wants you to have a positive relationship with your parents. Remain hopeful that your relationship will eventually heal.

4. Be patient and empathetic. Try to understand the hurt that your parents may be experiencing and show compassion for their feelings.

5. Listen. Let your parents express their perspectives. Validate their feelings and reassure them that you care about their opinion.

6. Look inward. Remember that healing is a two way street. Try to find ways in which you can be a better family member.

7. Don’t take it personally. It’s natural for a parent to want influence over their children’s way of life. Assert your individuality respectfully.

8. Forgive. Don’t hold onto the past. Letting go of old hurt will free you from resentfulness.

9. Lead by example. Show your parents how your belief has transformed your life by sharing the great things you are doing every day.

10. Ask for God to guide you through this tough time. Prayer can help you remain strong even in the most difficult times.