Holiday meals often tense and stressful

Jacob Williams, Opinion Editor

The heralding of the holidays means, for some, an awkward meal at a table laden with strange relatives and fierce contention.

When families are divided in the wake of a divorce or severe discord, teens often feel the disheartening impact.

Junior Laura Angle commonly experiences uncomfortable family dinners, especially around the holiday season, when her family convenes for an uncomfortable get-together.

“It’s all incredibly tense and silent,” Angle said.  “No one really says anything, and if they do, it’s only to one specific person.  My step-dad never talks to me or my brother, just his daughter or my mom.  My older brother and I just keep to ourselves and pray that dinner will be over soon and another family dinner won’t come soon.”

Cumbersome as her family dinners are to sit through, Angle’s breath catches in her throat as she describes the experience.

“I feel really awkward and not welcome,” Angle said.  “I dread family dinners and can never wait for them to be over.”

Families often divide when parents divorce and custody is awarded to one parent or the other, or when a bitter feud erupts between relatives.

Divorce has become so common in America, the Heritage Foundation reports, that half of all children born this year will see their parents divorce before the child reaches maturity.

“Mounting evidence in social science journals demonstrates that the devastating physical, emotional, and financial effects that divorce is having on these children will last well into adulthood and affect future generations,” said Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., in his article “The Effects of Divorce on America.”

Some teens experience discomfort when parents remarry.  The child is then torn between holiday dinners across the city or sometimes even accross the country.

Split family households can cause severe emotional anxiety, especially when nobody bothers to even show up for a holiday dinner.

“One Thanksgiving a few years back I was alone,” Angle said.  “I made myself a turkey sandwich and sat in my room.  I had never felt so apart from anything or anyone else than that occasion.  After I ate, I went to sleep.  That was my Thanksgiving.”

Sophomore Destiny Stone’s holiday season is stressful because the dining room is shared at Thanksgiving by six siblings, as well as nieces and nephews and further extended family.  Her family’s anxiety comes from crowding and the ominously high holiday bills during trying economic times: holiday dinners, power bills, Christmas presents.

“At dinner there is always something,” Stone said.  “It can be a good dinner, or chaotic where we argue about stuff that means nothing.”

She feels for students whose family feuds disrupt the holiday cheer.

“To all the kids who can’t enjoy your holidays due to family problems or hard struggles, just hang in there,” Stone said.  “The day is what you make it—be happy for what you have, that you’re breathing, because there is always someone doing worse than you think you’re doing.”

Junior Hannah Jobrack recalls her Thanksgiving experience as intimidatingly stressful, especially after an immediate family member’s ex-boyfriend made the decision to attend their family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

“He still came to dinner as her friend, but after the awkward silence was broken, the night got better,” Jobrack said.  “And it also happened to be the first day that I talked to my father in four years, so of course there was a crazy amount of stress.”

Jobrack also sympathizes and identifies with the crestfallen teens this holiday season.

“I have a very split family myself, so I understand how tough it can be,” Jobrack

said.  “I think that most people believe the holidays are just about family, but nowadays not everyone has family.”

While admitting that the holiday season can induce anxiety and pain, Jobrack says that people have to find happiness for themselves.

“At the end of the day, you are the only one who can make yourself happy and your days enjoyable,” Jobrack said.  “Holidays are truly about happiness and gratitude.