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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?

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