Claim your seat at the adults’ table this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a week away and it’s prime time for students and parents to be preparing for battle – uh, I mean, the holidays. Whether students are planning to eat turkey, ham or some other centerpiece that will end up in the fridge for weeks, one challenge stands before us as we make the journey home: dealing with family.

As one of the older children in my family, my elders expect me to act as an example for my younger sister and my cousins. As families across the country are gathering for Thanksgiving – which is notoriously known for family squabbles and drama – older children should push to be treated and respected as adults and create a cycle of change for future family members that are coming-of-age.

While I have a supportive family that I’m always excited to see and spend time with whenever I’m able to go home to Bellevue, Neb., the holidays can be a different story. For holidays like Thanksgiving, where extended family members are likely to visit, things can get a little dicey when family who may have not seen each other in a while all come to roost under one roof.

Advice columns and articles trend during the holiday season and their prominence goes to show that absolutely everyone on the planet is still learning to get along with relatives whose lifestyle, political leanings, and even food and music tastes, differ from our own. But for college students, it can be even more difficult to navigate the holidays because they are not treated like adults by family members.

College students often find themselves in this gray area of having all of the responsibilities of an adult, while simultaneously being treated as a child. While we are expected to be independent when we’re at school and at home, family members are hard-pressed to actually see us as grown individuals and include us in the adult conversations during the holidays. Instead, we are seen as kids who attend a really expensive daycare program in D.C. and should be playing with the younger kids instead of listening to what the adults have to say.

I’ve grinned and had to bear it for far too long during our family get-togethers. It really isn’t OK for uncles, aunts or grandparents to belittle you – by criticizing your chosen major or your job prospects after graduation – without expecting you to defend yourself.

While it may be seen as a sign of respect to not argue with elder family members or to not discuss issues like immigration or gun control, there are respectful ways to talk about issues that you want to discuss. But more importantly, standing your ground toward your family not only shows how much you’ve grown, but it also reminds the adults in your life that you aren’t just a kid with some strong opinions. You’re an adult.

Older siblings have a responsibility to protect their younger family members by stopping this cycle of vaguely well-intentioned but hurtful comments from becoming a Thanksgiving tradition. As someone who is months away from graduating, allowing family members to talk down to me or dismiss my input about politics or social issues is unacceptable – especially because I’ve been studying politics for my entire college career.

Now that we are becoming more independent with age, it’s important to remember that having a conversation with family members isn’t actually talking back. Instead of one-sided discussions at the dinner table, speaking up establishes that we are adults. While being the guinea pig and testing the adult waters with family may be difficult, it paves the road for young siblings and cousins to be respected at family gatherings in the future.

The holidays have been a time when my family comes together and celebrates over food, gifts and each other’s company. I understand that not all families are like mine, but going home for the holidays can be stressful, in different ways, for everyone.

While you’re packing too many clothes and not enough textbooks for Thanksgiving, remember that you’re not coming home as a kid, but as an adult. While it’s high time for our families to treat us as such, this change in perspective won’t happen without reminding them that we don’t sit at the kids’ table anymore.

Renee Pineda, a senior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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