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As I walk into the school auditorium to meet the young minds of our future, I’m completely inspired that the teens of our day are glued to my presentation.

It doesn’t seem to be gender specific either. Boy or girl, it seems that North America’s young instinctively know that the food we eat has got to change. What inspires me most is that they, almost unanimously, feel that cooking has become the new accepted form of art expression.

Most feel there’s only one thing standing in their way.

All over North America, our youth are just itching to get into the kitchen and create! If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. There is a new global awareness that men and women cannot only become a chef but can even achieve TV celebrity status while doing what they love. (Thanks to Food Network and others.) Food has become fun: a competition, a game, and, most inspiring, there is collective community awareness that no one in our country should ever go hungry!

So “who” and “what” is standing in the way of our enthusiastic teens? What is stopping them from taking their passion for cooking home?

You may be surprised to find out that the “who” is parents, and the “what” is guilt.

Parents love their kids so much that they take on the heavy burden of guilt when it comes to asking their teens to take a turn making dinner. They feel the teens already have a full slate with schoolwork and their long list of activities.

What inevitably happens, more often than we like to admit, is that parents then use takeout or unhealthy packaged food as a trade for time with their precious families. So, you see, what starts as a love decision ends up contributing to the poor health of our nation.

Sarah Woodruff, PhD from the University of Windsor, and I are proving conclusively that:

If parents will step aside and allow their teens into the kitchen, the entire family gets healthier, mentally and physically. @Sandi_Richard (Click to Tweet!)

Since launching our nonprofit program Kinect-Ed in May 2011, 62% of the teens involved opened a conversation with their parents.

I would have loved to be in their homes when the teens explained to their parents that they MUST take a turn cooking dinner. I would have loved to see the tears and embraces as parents all over released their guilt. Understanding, for the first time, that their kid’s willingness to help with dinner is actually a doorway to the overall health of their home and the nation. We believe if this understanding continues, within ten short years, our youth will make a significant impact on overall family health.

If you are a parent who has experienced having a heavy heart when it comes to getting your kids to help with dinner, here are a few easy steps you can take to shift the paradigm of thinking in your home.

STEP ONE: OPEN THE CONVERSATION

“I love you, and in a few short years, you will be on your own. I need to let you get involved with making dinner so that you can develop the skills you will need to keep you vibrant and healthy.”

STEP TWO: IF IT FRIGHTENS YOU THAT YOUR CHILD DOESN’T KNOW HOW

To cut, chop, or use the stove…then take five minutes and do the cutting and chopping. That way, they can still assemble the meal the following day when they get home from school.

Bit by bit, teach them how to cut and chop safely. Ask them to wait until you get home to turn the oven or stove on. Explain that you know they are capable, but it’s you that needs to be confident that they are safe.

STEP THREE: CALL IT THEIR OWN

It’s “Mike’s Famous Taco Night,” or “Amber’s Famous Carbonara.” Let them shine as their repertoire grows!

Within weeks, I promise you that the guilt will disperse and the air will be replaced with a sense of understanding, cooperation, and compassion right inside your own home.


Sandi Richard is considered by many to be North America’s leading meal planning expert. She is the three-time award winning creator and host of Fixing Dinner on Food Network Canada, American Life TV, and Discovery Asia. She is an international bestselling author of seven life-changing books in her Cooking for the Rushed series. Sandi is the mother of seven children, and when eating became the enemy in her house, she began searching for solutions.

*Image courtesy of Katherine of Chicago.