• Connecting With Teens—Mighty Parenting 218 with Chef Kibby

  • connecting with teens

    For those of us juggling parenthood, adulthood, work and COVID-19 habits, cooking often seems like just one more item on the to-do list, and many times gets dropped in favor of take-out when we just can’t find the time. Chef Kibby talks us through taking that chore and using it for connecting with teens. He and Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler discuss the power of cooking with others, the life skills our teens gain from cooking, and how we can use everything from shopping to preparation to eating together to strengthen our relationships with our kids.

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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    To let our children see us fail, to be able to model healthy coping mechanisms, and to be able to give them an opportunity to empathize with us—oh man, it is just so powerful, so connecting.

    High Points From Our Conversation on Connecting With Teens:

    Quote about connecting teens through cooking

    Chef Kibby has been in the food service industry for 25 years and it’s taught him many things about food—how we need it to survive, thrive, enjoy life and participate in physical and mental activities.

    The activity of cooking with other people is powerful.

    Having the essential need of food met allows people to be present in the moment rather than focusing on other to-do’s.

    COVID-19 pushed Chef Kibby back into his home, and it wasn’t pretty. He’s a foster parent, but wasn’t in a good mental or emotional place for that responsibility, and was using his work as an escape—an escape that he lost during COVID.

    He retreated into his kitchen, and it was there that he started learning how to better connect with his children, using his passion and skill for said kitchen and cooking as an unforeseen common ground to meet his kids on that he hadn’t anticipated.

    Chef Kibby created the Cooking is Connecting podcast based on those transformative experiences, to help other parents (biological, foster or adoptive) in connecting with teens via cooking and eating with them, not just for them.

    In slowing down and teaching our kids not just how to cook, but how to prepare and how to clean up and re-stock ingredients, we can re-learn to allow ourselves to enjoy cooking, to let it be a mindful activity and bonding time instead of just another item to check off the to-do list.

    Having our children in the kitchen and teaching them to cook is teaching them life skills: 

    • Empowering to control what’s going into your body
    • Saves money 
    • Expressing hospitality (making friends in college/at work)
    • Safe, moderately healthy coping mechanism
    Because food is such an embodied, sensory experience it creates a neurological connection between the child and the caregiver providing the food. You’re demonstrating empathy and compassion in meeting their needs while also empowering them with the skills to meet those needs for themselves and for others.

    In cooking with your teen, you can create pockets of time where you’re spending time together but aren’t expecting deep conversation; it allows connecting with teens in an everyday situation where they have space to talk if they want or need to, but aren’t expected to spill their guts while you’re staring at them.

    When Chef Kibby lost his catering business during COVID, going back to his kitchen and still being able to cook for himself and his family allowed him to cope and gave him back some power in a powerless situation.

    One of chef’s kids came up to him one day during prep and asked to chop his vegetable scraps. He thought of all the reasons to say no, but he also recognized her deep need to help. This changed his mindset around her and it was the beginning of something new in their relationship.

    Being a foster and adoptive parent, Chef Kibby had to learn about trauma-informed therapy to help children that have had bad past experiences and don’t have a natural connection with us as parents. Cooking is a tool that can be used to try reaching past the trauma-induced neurological changes, to allow connecting with teens in a way that allows them to feel that they are safe, that they can trust us, that they can start setting the fear and anxiety aside to continue to grow.

    Even if you have a child who’s in their late teens or early twenties, it isn’t too late to start building a new, healthier and stronger foundation by spending time in the kitchen together. If they’re teenagers, they’re going to be moving out and they need to know how to feed themselves. You’ll also feel better knowing they know how to do that; cooking is a valuable life skill.

    Smaller activities, such as plating up take-out or putting together a side salad, still have an impact. Studies have shown that sitting down to eat with your family even once a week has a statistically significant impact. You will see improvement in your kids’ physical, mental and emotional health (even if it takes a while to manifest).

    A mixed blessing of the COVID lockdown was that many more families suddenly had the time and space to sit down and eat together regularly.

    Consider embracing the next level beyond eating together. Have your teen bake the garlic bread. Ask them to tidy up and set the table. Help them make a fruit salad. Work on clean-up together while dinner is in the oven.

    Convenience has become more of a priority in our lives as we’ve gotten busier, and that’s extended to mealtime as well; take-out or quick-bake meals are more common because they’re less work at the end of a long day. And while that’s understandable, it does mean that cooking and connecting family via cooking has slid to the wayside a bit. Maybe it’s time to change that.

    If you’re having some difficulties in your relationships with your children, maybe consider making some changes to the family dynamic. There is so much power in the act of cooking together that it might be worth some difficult conversations on shuffling priorities, finances, schedules and resources to make more time for it.

    In making those changes, in learning new recipes and cooking techniques, in changing your schedule, your eating habits, your grocery budget, in telling your kid that you’re willing to do all of this—it’s a way to tell them, I love you. I want to do this with you. I’m making these changes because you are a priority in my life.

    If the goal is connection the outcome doesn’t matter. Whether the meal turns out perfectly or a burnt mess isn’t always the point—the point is learning and trying and making food together with your kids, because connecting with teens via cooking is a method that will always have relevance because food will always be important in our daily lives.

    It’s good to be vulnerable with our children. Chef Kibby felt like he had to come from a place of strength and knowing. Which is important with very young children, but with his older teens, what he was really doing was shielding himself from opportunities for his kids to actually empathize with him and to see that he’s still trying to figure things out as well.

    The most memorable moment can be when things don’t work out as expected. Maybe your first joint lasagna ended in flaming disaster. Maybe the kitchen turned into a mess because you got into a food fight. Maybe you tried to help your kid make cookie dough and flour ended up everywhere. These are the stories you’ll be recalling in the future; these are the stories you’ll be gently embarrassing your child with in front of their fiancé, and maybe their kids one day.

    Don’t expect perfection; some of the best bonding moments with your kids are the ones you can look at later, laugh, and say, wow, that was such a disaster.


    Mighty Parenting Tackles: Finding The Work Life Balance For Parents | Judy Davis Sandy Fowler | Episode 28

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    The Role of Food | Lisa Fawcett and Abby Black | Episode 207

    Our Guest Chef Kibby:

    Chef Kibby discusses connecting with teens through cooking

    If you don’t know Chef Kibby, he’s a professional chef, public speaker, and online content creator.  He has combined his 25 years of food experience with 12 years as a biological, foster, and adoptive parent to create a personal brand dedicated to demonstrating the connecting power of cooking and eating with our children.  He has a YouTube channel, a podcast, online courses, and so much more.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://cookingisconnecting.com.

    From Sandy:

    It’s easier to listen and connect with your teenager when you are calm. Grab Sandy’s complimentary lesson on finding calm at https://sandyfowler.com