Why Family Dinners Matter
By: Angelica Vecchiato
As is reflected in the realm of film as oftentimes within the realm of reality, the
classic image of a teenager is one that evokes an independent, litigious, and rebellious
youth. As German psychologist Erik Erikson argued, the adolescent phase was a time of
intense ‘identity crisis’. Constantly questioning the daily ‘normals’ and the status quo of
their household rules in an attempt to live free-spiritedly, teenagers' often come into
heated conflict with their parents, arguing with them at every turn. However, this
dissension manifests itself most ostensibly at family dinners.
As per the general consensus of many of my friends, there is something about
family dinners which seem to accentuate the worst traits of their parents’ character and
summon confrontation and debate at every turn. For many teens, family conversation
seems to beget disagreement. Inflaming conversation starters/attention grabbers from
parents may include:
“Instagram and tik-tok are so bad for you. I might have to take your social media away.”
“Lights out at 11...the internet content out there gets dangerous after then.”
As these words come spewing from across the table with such pointed malice and
distaste, you can bite your tongue no longer, and out comes the rebuttal opinion
accompanied (sometimes) with attitude. At this point, there is no going back. Countering
opinions ensue from your parents, challenging your very beliefs, and what would have
been a pleasant dinner is turned into a physiological and intellectual battleground.
Oftentimes these dinner table quarrels incite such dissension among family
members, that teenagers would rather eat alone, aloof and distant from their families. In
the quiet of their rooms, teenagers can remain unmolested and peacefully eat dinner
without the company of their insupportable and tyrannical parents, who seem most
masterfully through dinner table conversations to control them and their beliefs at every
turn. This trend is increasingly reflected in secular culture as a recent statistic from
YouthGov has shown that in the past 20 years, family mealtimes have gone down by 33%,
with over 62% of parents wishing that they could have family dinners more often.
Although, as teenagers, the proclivity to remain alone is strong, I say to you; NO!
Even though family dinners might seem like the bane of your existence, they are
counter-intuitively an integral part of your future success.
In the first place, according to statistics from the National Center of Addiction and
Substance Abuse at Columbia University, adolescents who eat dinner with their family
are less likely to be overweight, less likely to engage in risky behavior (i.e. Drugs,
alcohol), are more likely to perform better academically, and are more likely to have a
better relationship with the families(parents included) in the future. These benefits result
from simply eating in company, they do not address the benefits of family dinnertime
conversation, which is synonymous with mealtime.
Family conversation, or really family argumentation, as much as it is frustrating, is
quite frankly indispensable. In experiencing confrontation and differing ideals from your
parents or other family members, you are able to sharpen your intellect as well as
simultaneously practicing the art of debating and argumentation.
Although your parents may have different opinions of social-media, politics, and
secular society, they have a right to express it, but so do you, as the teenager, have a right
to respectfully disagree and vocalize your dissent. (Last time I checked we still lived in a
democracy...) When your parents express their opinion, you have to be quick on your feet
to think of a rebuttal; you have to know your arguments, know your motives, and know them well. To make family dinner table arguments more amusing and congenial, might I
suggest pretending to be a lawyer, convincing your jury(parents and family members) to
persuade them to adopt your opinions and viewpoints. Who knows, perhaps, with some
deeper understanding made possible through polite dialogue, you might even be
impressed by some of your parents beliefs and come to adopt them as your own. Across
the table, we share bread, but also ideas.
Family conversation influences you, shapes you. Embarking to debate political and
social issues on a familial level, we will be forged in fire-- able to come into society with
strong convictions, and an even stronger sense of argumentation. Starting from the family
dinner table., we’ll have an idea on how to solve society’s problems. I would argue that
family dinner table conversations single-handedly craft and fabricate some of the most
academic and forward thinking minds of the modern age.
Lastly, family dinners are unadmitted terribly fun. All statistics aside, if there
were no family dinner table, no arguments, no food, no sharing, no laughing, no
crying--where would our society be? Would we all cower in our rooms? Where would the
discussion take place? How could society solve its problems if not starting within the
walls of a family home?