So you’ve made the decision to become vegan. You feel enraged about the truths of animal cruelty, inspired to create change, and ready to make a serious commitment to your newfound ethically conscious lifestyle. But in reality it’s just a phase, according to your parents anyway. One of the most challenging aspects of embracing veganism at a young age is proving to adults that you should be taken seriously and this change isn’t just a trend that will disappear in a few months. While it should not matter what others think of your choices, it can be frustrating living under your parents’ roof if they’re vocal about their disapproval or simply overbearing. Approaching outing yourself as a vegan in a mature, responsible manner and thriving on your herbivorous ways is the best method to happy, healthy veganism at any age. I wish there was an instruction manual to deal with unreasonable parents on this topic and although everyone’s situation is different, there are some basic principles that apply.
When discussing your veganism with a parent, be calm and articulate. Explain your reasons for avoiding animal products, whether they are ethical, environmental, health, or a combination of several reasons. Don’t be aggressive, even if they get under your skin. Discovering veganism is an eye-opening experience to a new world and it can be difficult to understand how all these other people can participate in animal cruelty everyday and just not get it. Resist the temptation to call your mother a chicken murderer at the dinner table. Outbursts and judgments will hurt your cause and not help in the being taken seriously department. Use this frustration for good—start a blog, podcast, or zine. Get involved in protests (I give you permission to go against your parents’ rules, if necessary) and yell your heart out. Getting involved is always a great way to meet other vegans, perhaps some around your age, which can be really helpful.
Know your nutrition facts. Read up on B-12, protein, calcium, and omega-3s and the foods they’re found in. Explain to your parents the wonders of all the different kinds fortified non-dairy milk, flax seeds, vegetables, and the protein in grains, beans, nuts, tofu, seitan, and tempeh. Have a comeback ready for every stereotypical vegan nutrition question (check out Defensive Omnivore Bingo for ideas). It’s simple to take in optimal nutrition eating a healthy vegan diet, but taking a vegan-friendly multivitamin regularly isn’t a bad idea to give a parent peace of mind, or if you like to eat cupcakes as a meal sometimes. If your parents are mainly concerned about the nutritional aspect of veganism, researching and learning as much as you can about an animal-free diet is the best response you can have to show that you know what you’re doing and care about your health.
Learn to cook, and get your family involved. New veganism is exciting in the kitchen, especially when you’re just learning to cook. Get your hands on some vegan cookbooks and make some dishes to share with your family to show that you’re eating delicious food and not starving. If your parents are warming up to the idea, start cooking together! Veganize family recipes, then go grocery shopping and cook a meal together. This is a great way to respond to “but you can never have Grandma’s special casserole again!” Yes, yes you can, but with a few substitutions and less dead animal. And at the end of the day, baking up dessert is the way to win people over.
If you’ve tried everything and your parents still won’t budge and try to make your life miserable or forbid your veganism, don’t give up. Even if they pull that you’re under eighteen and living under their roof, you have every right to stick to your guns. Veganism doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s ultimately your decision. If you need to cook for yourself 100% of the time and buy some of your own food, so be it. Staples like fruit, vegetables, and grains are probably already in the kitchen, and beans and other grains are incredibly cheap. Watch out for mom sneaking meat into your food if you’re dealing with that kind of crazy. Teenage years are difficult already and if something like veganism is a point of contention, you’re probably fighting about lots of other crap with your parents, so why give up? It’s something worth fighting about. A few years later, you can show them your “phase” is still going strong.