Preparing your child to leave the nest.
When a mother bird pushes her baby fledgling out of the nest, she does so after preparing that baby to fly on it's own. She knows what the baby will need to have learned and practiced before it's first solo flight, and she also knows that even after the first solo the baby will still need a bit of time returning to the nest before it is able to leave permanently. Much the same way we human parents should be preparing our fledglings to move out and handle life on their own. So what are the skills our children need to solo? Your list may be different, but, here is mine and how I prepare my children for independent life.
First they have to be able to feed themselves. A child relies entirely on it's parents for nourishment, and rightly so, but, when they are out on their own they will need the skills to be able to not only eat but to nourish themselves. Anyone, pretty much, can heat a microwave dinner or take out, but, those types of foods are expensive and for the most part are heavily salted, loaded with fats and preservatives, and not at all a balanced diet. Still, young people believe that if they simply satisfy their hunger they are doing fine. My adult kids have expressed to me how surprised they are that their college roommates and friends have no idea how to cook for themselves outside of making ramen. The truth is, as a newly independent adult, they need every physical and mental advantage they can get, and by nourishing their brains and their bodies they are a leg up on many if not most of their peers. Sadly, good nutrition can cost a bit more and takes more time and effort than fast food, but, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Knowing that doesn't guarantee our children will make that choice, so, we need to educate them from as early an age as we can about the value of eating healthy foods, and give them the practice they need in preparing it. Teach them exactly what is in their chosen fast foods, and make comparisons with healthier alternatives so they know clearly what the difference is. Teach them about the elements of a healthy diet. One of the very best sources of facts and education is found on Chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution website. My kids changed a lot of their eating habits and choices after following his short series.
You'll find recipes that kids can make and will love. Along with the how to's on his site are the why's. There are great websites out there that teach kids and parents about real food alternatives to fast food. The great thing is that kids like to cook. They like to learn how to follow a recipe. Therein lies the key to why so many young adults do not cook for themselves. They have never learned how to read and follow a recipe, and are intimidated by all the equipment and jargon. They don't know how to shop for ingredients, and they truly want to be able to. That's where the parents come in
Instead of just doing the grocery list making and shopping, get the kids involved. Teach the children how to make a menu based on the recipes they either like or want to try. Every week include one recipe that is new to everyone so they can learn how to adapt to new ways of preparing food right along with you. Try various cuisines such as Italian, Mexican, Indian, Korean, mix it up a bit but try not to go too crazy every night of the week. Stick to the basic family favorites and simple recipes for most meals. Just add something new and different once or twice a week. This applies to more than just dinners. Change up the breakfast and lunch routines, too. Scour the internet and your favorite cookbooks for the week's recipes. Then make up a grocery list to include the ingredients you don't already have in the pantry. After you have prepared the grocery list, have your child look it over to see how it's done and perhaps add a few items to the list that they would like to try, like a fruit they haven't had before, or just to add some healthy snacks to the list. Kids usually eat what they have chosen for themselves.
Now that you have your list, take the child to the store with you, and have them do most of the shopping, meaning walk them from area to area and have them find the items on the list. This will not only teach them where things are in a grocery store, but, how to compare brands, prices, quality, all the things we already do as parents but don't always teach our children. How many times have we heard of a wife sending her husband to the store to buy something, let's say tomato paste, and they come back either empty handed or with some completely incompatible substitute like ketchup? The reason for this is they had no idea where to find things in a grocery store or what can substitute and what cannot. It's truly a skill that is developed through trial and error, practice, and education. Far too many young people avoid shopping for food simply because they lack that skill.
Once the food is purchased, teach them how to bag the groceries properly. Most young people that have worked as a grocery store bagger know that eggs and bread and other crushables always go on top, and that too many heavy items can tear through a bag. Not every child has this experience, so, make sure your child knows what goes where and how. Then teach them how to properly store the food they just bought.
Now they need practice preparing and cooking the food, and how to read and follow a recipe. After a few times most of the jargon and abbreviations will be familiar to them, and the fear will go away, but, be prepared at first for the tendency they will have to get you to take over and just do it for them. On a busy night it's even more tempting, but, try to stick to your guns most of the time. They will learn that cooking really doesn't take that long, and the result is so much better than throwing something in the microwave.
When your child is on their own and competing in the school or work world they will be so much better off for having made cooking for themselves a natural part of their day to day life.
On a similar note, at some point every child should learn how to count back change, how to write a check, how to balance a checkbook, and how to properly use a credit card. But that's another blog entry.
So here is a recipe my kids love to make, and it's so simple and yummy we make it fairly often especially in the summer time.
Peas and Cheese Salad
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
a dash of pickle juice
a dash of apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 bag frozen peas or 2 cups fresh peas
2 cups cubed cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped sweet pickles
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped or sliced
Just combine the first five ingredients, then add the remaining five ingredients. Enjoy. If you like you can add mustard, chopped apples, just about anything you would like.
I'm a mother of eleven children, wife of 37 years, Latter Day Saint, and 911 Dispatcher and a budding homesteader. Come along with me as I journey toward self sufficiency, one baby step at a time.
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