Cookery course helps bereaved teens

19 April 2013
Bereaved teenagers are being offered an innovative new course which uses cooking as therapy while providing vital life skills.

Hospice staff with the children

The initiative - the first of its kind in the UK - has been launched by the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted following the success of a similar course for adults. 

Tania Brocklehurst, the hospice’s clinical bereavement coordinator, said offering the course to young people seemed like a natural step.

"The teenage years are a time when there’s a lot going on, with hormones flying around and the pressures of adolescence. Add bereavement to the equation and it can be really tough, not only for teenagers but for their families too. Connecting with them and knowing how to support them isn’t always easy. After the success of the adult Cooking with Chris course, though, a course for teenagers seemed like the obvious next step."

‘Teen Cooking with Chris’ aims to support teenagers with a close family member who has died at the hospice. Five young people between the ages of 11-17 accompanied by a significant adult took part in the five-week pilot. Two 17-year-olds whose parents were unable to attend partnered each other.

"By engaging them with cooking in pairs as a practical, supportive activity, the idea is that food becomes a therapeutic bridge between teenager and adult which enables conversation, helps increase understanding and enhances communication and bonding. It’s all about building resilience," said Tania.

The pairs took turns to prepare their favourite dishes under the watchful eye of hospice catering manager Chris Took (pictured above, centre, with the course participants and colleague Gill Sears). He said: "As the group settled, confidence grew and they began asking questions - it was lovely to see."

Daisy Green, 14, attended the course with her parents and two godmothers. "I didn’t really know what to expect," admits Daisy, who took part following the sudden death of her grandmother, Jennifer, who lived with the family at their home.

"I did it because I wanted to learn to be a better cook and I definitely feel I am. It’s good to have a focus and to be with other teenagers with a common bond."

Daisy’s mum Sarah praised the initiative, saying: "It’s built her confidence, it’s given her a special space to go and do something for herself and it’s teaching her cookery skills that my dear mum, who was a cookery teacher, would have been proud of.

"How wonderful that a journey, which started with such sadness, should continue with something so positive."

For more information about The Hospice of St Francis, visit www.stfrancis.org.uk

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