Barbara Shelly

Be happy if your teen brings a date to Thanksgiving dinner

Updated: 2013-11-28T00:10:00Z

By Barbara Shelly

The Kansas City Star

It seems we have a new Thanksgiving dilemma to mull over.

It is this: Should your teenager be able to invite a date to dinner?

NBC apparently started the ball rolling with a report on this development, complete with comments from a family psychologist, who notes that a Thanksgiving date “signifies that things are changing and the family needs to evolve.” Hear that, family?

Others have weighed in, usually in a humorous way.

Last I heard, people in their teens and 20’s don’t really date. They hang out in packs and/or hook up. Has that changed? If so, perhaps we should be thankful that our teenagers are invested enough in a relationship to bring a date to Thanksgiving dinner.

But really, why on earth?

Why would any high school student — apparently this is where it starts — want to sit around watching football with a classmate’s eccentric uncle, then plow his or her way through a turkey dinner and a fraught family conversation?

According to the NBC piece, some couples start at one person’s home, then move on to eat a second dinner with their partner’s family. That’s actually great news. A generation with that capacity for endurance is bound for great things.

Is this really “a tremendously big deal,” as the NBC psychologist opined? Only to parents, who tend to think it is all about us. Bringing a date into the family sanctum shouldn’t be seen as a sign of rejection on the part of the teenager. Far better to look at it as a validation of what goes on in the family. Maybe Uncle Joe isn’t as weird as we’ve made him out to be.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to Follow her at

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