Do you know who's coming to Thanksgiving dinner this year? When you welcome your college-aged children to the table they may be accompanied by a stranger or two--not a roommate or friend, but some foreign ideologies they picked up at school. They may surprise you by sharing their new perspectives on controversial topics disguised as Truth but steeped in secular humanism.
Among the possibilities that might arise in conversation: same sex marriage, the 2020 election, abortion, cohabitation, homosexual lifestyles, etc. Perhaps these don't belong at the dinner table per se, but parents and adult children should be able to engage in honest, civil dialog about contentious topics at some point, don't you think?
What happens in your home when controversies like these arise? Do family members take sides? Does the discussion escalate to uncomfortable levels? At our family table, when the conversation got heated, my dad often said, "Someone's going to end up crying," and he was usually right.
How might you and I, as parents of college-aged young adults, prepare in advance for the possibility of cultural warfare at Thanksgiving? Let's first assume we won't win--- because we're not going try. Instead of winning an immediate, potentially emotional argument, we're going to love (and pray) them to the truth over the long run.
Our Remote Preparation:
The priority will be to work on our own personal holiness so that we're more able to love authentically when emotions run high. (through prayer and the sacraments)
Next, we want to keep the lines of communication open and friendly. I recommend love-bombing. (see previous posts)
It helps immensely to know what kinds of arguments might be coming up at the table. To that end, perhaps we'll make a concerted effort to form ourselves by reading, say, 20 minutes a day on various "hot topics." Bishop Barrons is a good resource.
When the topic arises and it's time to respond:
We present our position in the most positive way, preferably in light of God's immense love for every soul.
We practice empathic listening without interrupting or solving the problem.
We reflect back what we've heard them share, helping them to feel that we really understand their points.
We exercise patience, giving our child the benefit of the doubt, finding what's good in what they say and building on it, if at all possible.
Finally, we push back ever so gently, if necessary. "I disagree, but I love you." "You make some good points, but I see things this way."
And whether the argument goes well or not, we take the wise advice of Padre Pio: Pray, hope and don't worry.
So, while we're preparing the turkey and baking the pies, we can prepare our heart and mind to really love our children (and all our other relatives) by readying ourselves to engage them in honest non-aggressive dialog about the principles most important to us. In this way, we will reflect the love of Christ to them, and enjoy our time together much more.