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How to Cook Dinner With Your Teen

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we hear from many families looking for new ways to interact with their teens. They want to form family routines that bring everyone together for fun, positive interactions. In our school, the therapeutic process includes having students learn their way around a kitchen. We are writing on this topic today to help parents learn how to cook dinner with your teen as a healthy bonding experience.

Eating is one of the most fundamental aspects of being alive. In one sense, we absolutely must eat to keep going. Without food, we would starve. In another sense, eating together is a huge part of social bonding and human interaction. Across the world, cultures include cooking and eating in their day-to-day interactions and big celebrations.

Learning to cook is a rite of passage in many cultures. Parents and elders pass along family traditions to the younger generation. Kids get to learn alongside their parents while creating a meal that everyone at the table will enjoy. Whether making dinner for the evening or preparing for a celebration, important moments come from cooking and eating together. Time spent cooking is time spent bonding.

Of course, it’s also important for kids to learn how to cook before they reach adulthood to know how to have a healthy diet. In our modern world of fast food and frozen dinners, it’s easy for basic culinary skills to slip through the cracks. Plenty of adults today never learned how to cook or plan meals, so they end up eating a lot of unhealthy junk food. From daily meal planning to backyard barbecues, learning to cook is essential for any teen.

How to cook dinner with your teen

If your family doesn’t typically cook together, it can be a little awkward as you begin. Press through the awkward moments, though. Sure, your first meals might not be perfect, but that’s fine. You’ll figure it all out together and create family memories along the way.

Meal planning

Learning to plan meals is an important lesson while growing up. It’s a lot easier to cook and eat healthy meals if you plan for them in advance. Planning gives you the time to buy the right ingredients and choose the right day and time to cook. When you leave it to the last minute to figure it all out, the process gets stressful and chaotic.

As you’re first getting into cooking together, don’t go overboard. If your family doesn’t typically plan meals and cook together, it’s best to ease into it. Trying to make something that’s difficult or time-consuming can suck the fun out of cooking when you don’t know what you’re doing. Pick recipes that are appropriately suited for your skillset and build from there.

Choose healthy meals

Teens need to learn what creates a healthy meal. Teenagers eat a lot of food throughout the day, which is bound to be junk food. Junk food is easy to obtain. It tastes good and makes them feel happy. Help your teen learn how to incorporate nutritious food into their diet and cook healthy meals.

When you cook dinner with your teen, think through the health aspects of the meal. Is there enough protein? Are there some vegetables? Avoid overloading the meal with starches, fried food, and sugary food. As you’re going through this process, explain the health aspects of the meal to your teen.

Let your teen help

Having a hands-on role in meal preparation is beneficial for teen mental health. Though you both might need to check a recipe online or watch a tutorial video, you won’t be spending much time in front of a screen while you’re cooking together.

Cooking and eating together as a family is an engaging process that requires attention. When you cook dinner with your teen, you get to spend time together working toward a specific goal without the distraction of screen time. This gives you time to get to know each other better and talk about life. When you and your teen have fun cooking together, it becomes an important bonding time.

Get your teen’s opinion

Include your teen in the preparation process. Give them some say in the meals you prepare together and how you make them. Part of learning to cook is experimenting and learning from the outcome. Encourage your teen to pick meals that they think the family will enjoy, and that might be fun to cook.

Thinking through the steps of meal planning and preparation helps teenagers learn to focus. At school, teens are often taught the material for class and expected to memorize it and answer the test questions correctly. They don’t always have to think through the process of what they’re learning when they just memorize information. When presented with a new task, teens tend to wait for an adult to give them the answers that they “should” know rather than solving the problem independently.

Learning to cook is a perfect opportunity for teens to develop critical thinking skills. They start with an open-ended question like, “What should we cook for dinner on Thursday?” and develop a plan. Then, they have to execute the plan. Dinner won’t just cook itself! Once the meal is complete, though, they get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

For more information about our therapeutic boarding school for teen boys, you can call us at 866-640-1899 or contact us online.

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