Quite a lot of life these days happens in the kitchen. This is the place where family meals begin, of course, but it's also where connections are built, where skills in generosity and hospitality are learned, where meaningful memories are forged. Invite your tween to a deeper relationship by spending time with you as you go about all the little events of life that take place in the kitchen.
My 12-year-old daughter complained when I told her I wanted her to be responsible for preparing one meal each week. But her complaints turned to excitement when her friends said they wished their parents would let them cook a meal. Now on Sundays when I plan our weekly menu, she flips through cookbooks, and we figure out the needed ingredients for her meal. My daughter is gradually progressing from simple meals like spaghetti to more complex recipes as she learns and builds confidence in her cooking abilities. It's encouraging to her when she sees the entire family enjoying a meal she's prepared.
Cooking Up Conversation
Knowing that some kids more readily open their hearts when their hands are busy, I recently asked my 7-year- old daughter, Hannah, to be my cooking assistant. Now, as she helps me measure, pour and mix ingredients, we talk about her day, her dreams and whatever is on her mind. Conversation tends to turn deeper without others in the room, and Hannah knows she can always count on regular time talking with Mom as we cook together.
Teach Them to Be Hospitable
While reading an article in a cooking magazine, my son Jacob was inspired to launch "Taco Tuesdays." With our permission, he offered a standing invitation to his (mostly neighborhood) friends: Come over for a taco dinner every week. Because the meal was always at the same time and place, his busy friends could join us whenever their schedules allowed — no RSVP required. And since tacos are simple to make, Jacob could prepare them himself.
We saw this as an opportunity for our son to learn hospitality, and as parents, we enjoyed getting to know his friends better. These low-key encounters also offered a way for the parents in the neighborhood to learn each other's names and become better acquainted.
Soon the kids who were coming over on Tuesdays brought their own side dishes or desserts to share. And Jacob led the group of tweens in a simple prayer of thanks for every meal — a small but consistent witness of his faith.