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Adulting 101

Got a teenager who will soon be off to school? Do them a favour with these life lessons

While farm kids learn many things that their urban counterparts never get to experience, it’s also possible that in the busy-ness of life on the farm, some skills needed for independent living can get overlooked. It’s just easier to keep getting their meals for them, doing their laundry for them, helping them sort their money out.

Besides, we want to protect our children from difficulties and stress, don’t we?

Yes, we know in the backs of our heads that this approach might make our children less resilient as adults. But really, there’s time to think about that tomorrow. Today is today. Let’s just get through it.

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Well, maybe not. According to Dr. Michael Ungar, a resiliency researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax, it’s true that an excess of trauma and stress can be damaging, but it’s equally good for our kids to be exposed to at least some risk.

It’s why Ungar recommends giving children age-appropriate opportunities to experience manageable levels of stress. This, he explains, is how we nurture resilience.

As parents we should be thinking about preparing our children with the lessons they will need for success in life. While they are still under our wings, we can help them and coach them through what could otherwise be arduous tasks for the uninitiated.

Recognizing that too many students are graduating from high school lacking basic skills, some schools have begun offering “Adulting 101” classes. These courses emphasize the importance of avoiding gender stereotypes. Men need to know how to cook and clean and, likewise, women need to know how to do basic repairs, for example.

It’s something we can do on the farm too, and below are some ideas of what to cover in your own “Adulting 101” classes with your kids or grandkids. Keep it age appropriate, but also keep the end goal in mind.

Do they know how to do laundry, clean a toilet, clean the hair out of the shower drain, sew on a button, scrub a floor, pick up their wet towels after a shower, replace the toilet paper roll, take out the recyclables and garbage, and use basic tools such as a hammer, screwdriver and drill?

If the internet is down or their cell phone isn’t working, have them call tech support. You can coach them from the sidelines.

Have them use the internet to research a problem and possible solutions. Discuss what to look for in determining if the information they find is credible. Is it from a reputable source? How old is it? Does it make sense?

Have them pack their own bags for sports practices and vacations.

Have them get quotes for car insurance, make a hotel reservation, and check out the cost of renting or buying a house.

Have them book their own haircut and dentist appointments.

Financial skills are fundamental. Do your kids understand credit card interest, income taxes, RSPs and RESPs?

Have them create a budget including income, living expenses, school expenses, etc.

Have them pay for some of their own expenses such as clothes, videogames and movies.

Do they know what makes a phone call or email suspicious? Do they employ safe practices when using the internet and social media?

Can they prepare their own meals?

Three times a day

With parents strapped for time, passing on cooking skills to the next generation often falls by the wayside. Besides, as a parent, do you really want to eat what the kids would want to cook?

Plus, says Millbrook, Ont. cookbook author, Evelyn Raab, there’s all the takeout and processed food options these days. It’s so much easier not to cook.

Somehow we carve out time to teach kids to read and help them with homework priorities, but they need to know about food and about cooking too.

Teaching kids to cook is fundamental, says Raab, author of Clueless in the Kitchen: Cooking for Beginners. “Cooking,” she says, “is good for your budget, your health and
your friendships.”

“The best way to learn is by doing,” says Raab. “Assign them (your teens) to cook once a week or once every other week. They will get confident.”

Raab recommends starting with simple meals. “It doesn’t need to be fancy.” Some basics include knowing how to cook pasta, meat balls, soup and eggs. “Eggs are great when you are starving,” she says. “Scrambled, fried, poached, quiche or a frittata, eggs are an amazing thing.”

And with soup, once you get confident, you won’t need a recipe, continues Raab. “You will be able to throw it all in a pot.”

Raab plans her meals around what’s on sale at the grocery store. “Go to the store with a list but don’t be afraid to try new things,” she says. “There are so many recipes online. With experience you will recognize right away whether you will like a recipe or not.”

Raab’s tips for success in the kitchen include:

  • Read the recipe from start to finish.
  • Make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment needed.
  • Make sure you have enough time.
  • Chop and measure all ingredients.
  • Clean up as you go.

Children also learn cooking skills by watching adults, says Raab. They will model our behaviour so Raab recommends being relaxed in the kitchen. Put on some music or a podcast, she says. Enjoy yourself.

Sausage and Lentil Soup

Serves 4. A full meal in a soup — in less than half an hour. You can do this.

  • 1 tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) ground cumin
  • 1 can (28 oz./796 ml) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (19 oz./540 ml) lentils, drained
  • 2 cups (500 ml) chicken or vegetable broth (prepared broth or made from bouillon cubes or powder)
  • ½ lb. (250 kg) kielbasa or any smoked sausage cut into ½-inch (1 cm) cubes
  • ½ tsp. (2 ml) salt
  • ¼ tsp. (1 ml) pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and cumin, and cook, stirring once in a while, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and all the juice in the can, then the lentils and the broth, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add the sausage, salt and pepper, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until heated through.

Serve with some good bread, and ta-da!

Vegetarian alert!

Omit the sausage, use vegetable broth as the cooking liquid and double the lentils for a hearty vegetarian version of this soup.

Sausage and Lentil Soup.
photo: Supplied

[Recipe excerpt taken from Clueless in the Kitchen: Cooking for Beginners by Evelyn Raab, with permission from Firefly Books]

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Helen Lammers-Helps

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