How can you re-engage with your teenager, teach them a valuable life skill and reduce your what-to-cook-for-tea stress?
If you’ve got a teenager, chances are they spend a considerable amount of time shut away in their room on social media, gaming or on YouTube. I know many of them work hard too: hours with their heads bent over books or on their laptops, anxious to do well in their exams. They may have sport or activities they do which is great but you probably drop them off /pick them up and it’s yet more time spent away from you and the rest of the family. They get to a certain age and that song Slipping Through My Fingers from the film Mama Mia, perfectly captures that strange sense of losing them before they’re even close to leaving home. In among the juggle of every day life you worry about this and it pains you but you don’t know what to do about it.
My suggestion for how to reclaim a bit of time with your teenager may not sound revolutionary but hear me out: get them cooking. Teenagers often tell you they can’t cook. They can. They just haven’t been taught to use the hob or how to follow a recipe. They’ve never even tried. If you take a bit of time to teach them and encourage them, it can have so many potential benefits:
It’s time spent with you, at home, in the family space, not staring at a screen.
The first time you get them to cook something, choose a day when you have a little bit more time so that you can be in the background, pointing out where things are kept or answering questions. You can sit with a glass of wine or multi task and fold the washing but you’ll be surprised how conversations can open up in these moments.
If you always do it for them you are not doing them any favours. It’s obvious to say it, but cooking is a life skill. It’s amazing how many young people go off to university without the foggiest idea how to cook a meal. Being able to knock up even a basic spag bol or tuna pasta bake will make them the most popular person in halls and ensure they eat properly once in a while. Even if student life is not on their agenda, being able to cook for friends enables them to bring people together in an affordable, enjoyable way.
Free up your time, reduce mid-week stress
We all know that eating freshly prepared meals is better for us than junk food and microwave meals but it can be a slog especially after work when you just need to get something on the table quickly. If your teenager could follow a recipe perhaps you could set them the task of making a meal once a week?
They will be super proud when they dish up the first meal they’ve cooked themselves. Praise and appreciation of the people around the table can be hugely rewarding. Whether it’s a success or a funny disaster, they’ll probably take a photo of it and put it on Instagram or Snapchat but they will still have got something positive out of it — and so will you.
I know all this works because I’ve done it myself: My daughter, Georgia, started learning to cook aged 14, for her Duke of Edinburgh Award but found many of the recipe books assumed a lot of knowledge (‘what is tbsp?’) So when she was thinking of fundraising ideas for a school expedition we decided to publish a cookbook for teens. We included student favourites, easy bakes, vegetarian options, main meals and food teenagers like to eat with their mates and made sure they were all written in a way teenagers could easily follow.
I now get my middle son (aged 13) to cook from it when I want to drag him out of his room and even though he’s not blessed with oodles of common sense, I’m always really impressed with what he makes.
To get hold of a copy of 50 Recipes Teenagers Can Tackle, find it on eBay or via any of our social media accounts (below) or contact Clare by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Guest Blog from Clare McVey
Clare McVey is a journalist and copywriter. With her daughter Georgia Thomas, 15, she’s published 50 Recipes Teenagers Can Tackle. It’s proved a huge hit with teenagers and parents.
The book has been featured in the Gloucestershire Echo, on BBC Radio Gloucestershire, tweeted about by Tom Kerridge and featured in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards newsletter.