You’ve taught them their ABC, helped them learn to read, supported them through SATs and GCEs and now they are setting off for college or university. Have you done all you can to prepare them for the big wide world? Sue Unstead suggests some books to help prepare young people to leave the nest successfully.
You have of course given them a sound understanding of sex and relationships… haven’t you? Hopefully you laid the foundations some years ago, but if not Sex, Puberty and All That Stuff provides an accessible and sympathetic guide to growing up. Jacqui Bailey’s tone is direct and relaxed, that of a trusted confidante at ease with her audience. She gives straightforward information on how the body changes both physically and emotionally, but the discussions about sex are always set in a context, stressing its emotional impact and the importance of being in charge of your own body and self esteem. It is non-judgmental where appropriate but absolutely clear about what is unacceptable or wrong. She gives lots of sane advice on friendship and maintaining good relationships with family and home, with lists of organisations and sources to contact for more specific help. The illustrations by Jan McCafferty set just the right tone – sassy, stylish and thought-provoking. Highly recommended for any reader from 10 or 11 years upwards, but also an invaluable resource for adults, whether parent or teacher.
And how independent are they in the kitchen? Are you confident they could cook a healthy and nutritious meal and shop for the ingredients on a tight budget?
Teenagers with even the slightest interest in cooking should be steered towards Sam Stern’s Cooking up a Storm . They could have no better ambassador for healthy eating and enjoyment of food with friends and family than the engaging 14-year-old author. The book carries an endorsement from Jamie Oliver, and you quickly see that Sam shares the same hands-on approach – why simply stir it when you can ‘blitz it’, ‘slap it in the pan’ or ‘whack it under the grill’. There are recipes for weekday and weekend breakfasts, tasty packed lunches and soups, evenings with mates round and food to impress the girls. There’s a useful chapter on exam-time survival with ideas for brain-booster foods and tips on keeping up the vitamin levels. But this is more than a collection of recipes. Sam Stern’s enthusiasm for food is infectious and he talks of the pleasures of the ‘feel of pastry’, the ‘smell of melting chocolate’. He gives sound advice on how to choose fresh food, and photos clearly show him enjoying the sourcing of the produce (and all from markets, real butcher’s shops and delis with never a supermarket aisle in sight!). Mother Susan Stern is the co-author, but she hovers in the background and one senses that she must be a great facilitator.
A leaving home manual
Nicola Morgan, the author of The Leaving Home Survival Guide , must come from a similar mould. In the dedication to her two teenage daughters she writes: ‘If you read this I promise not to nag. Too often!’ Her excellent manual for the departing fledgling carries the exhortation ‘Don’t leave home without it’, but I’d urge purchasing a second copy for the parent left behind. There’s a huge amount here for grown-ups too, and her pragmatic good sense frequently left me laughing out loud. ‘Freedom,’ she writes ‘is doing more than beckoning. It’s screaming PARTY in your ear.’ No more rules, no nagging parents, no more tidy your room. The flip side is of course no more clothes washed and ironed, no more chauffeur service – you’re on your own and ‘the Bank of Mum and Dad is officially shut’. No need for panicky phone calls home; with this book in hand you’ll find advice on almost any problem you might encounter. A chapter on Money gives information on setting up a bank account, how to pay bills and whether by direct debit or standing order, plus sensible advice on balancing a budget. Helpful guidance is given on renting accommodation with tips on flat hunting and practical ideas on avoiding the worst problems of sharing (‘Someone else’s boyfriend occupying the bathroom… I’ve been there, I have not forgotten. Twenty-one years and four months later it still bugs me.’). Morgan is particularly good on all things in the home, from cheap and cheerful ways to clean things, especially chemical free, to equipment for the kitchen with lots of really practical stuff that cookbooks don’t teach. She gives great advice on DIY (I especially like her cunning ruse for nurturing an APA or Adopted Practical Adult) with hints on how to understand the workings of a ballcock and other plumbing matters. Two important chapters cover Keeping Yourself Safe – issues relating to alcohol and drugs – and the Law, with advice on your rights and where to go for help. The range is huge, but the tone and presentation absolutely spot-on, clearly set out with an emergency section for quick reference. It should be required reading for all students (and their parents).
Together these three books would make a very sound basis for launching your offspring into a grown-up world.
Sue Unstead was a publisher of children’s non-fiction for 25 years and is now a freelance editorial consultant and writer.
Sex, Puberty and All That Stuff , Jacqui Bailey, ill. Jan McCafferty, Franklin Watts, 0 7496 5850 9, £8.99 pbk
Cooking up a Storm , Sam Stern and Susan Stern (who got him started), Walker, 1 84428 774 2, £9.99 pbk
The Leaving Home Survival Guide , Nicola Morgan, Walker, 1 84428 771 8, £8.99 pbk