“You are so lucky,” a new vegan friend recently said to my teenage daughter. “You’ve never eaten meat.” It’s true – our children have been vegan from birth – and, to our delight, they’ve thanked their parents for the way they were raised. Now, as they make plans for their own future, their values continue to point them along a path of awareness about the impact of their food choices on animals and the environment.
Many books and websites are devoted to the nutritional needs of vegan children. Fewer talk about how to share the values and ethics of veganism with children. How can parents help children realize that being vegan is something positive that they can do every day? How can your family celebrate its vegan diet? Here are some ideas.
- Talk to your children about being vegan. You can talk about why your family is vegan and why it’s important to you. Keep explanations age-appropriate and be careful not to condemn other family members who have not yet gone vegan. Start a family poster – “why I’m glad I’m vegan” and let everyone add their own ideas. If you do this every so often, you’ll have a record of how your children’s ideas have changed (or stayed the same) as they get older.
- Meet the animals. Farm sanctuaries often have family days where children can visit and see what cow, pigs, horses, and other animals are like. Watch videos of animals and adopt a turkey for Thanksgiving – and talk gently about why your family is such a friend to animals.
- Celebrate holidays, vegan style. Make sure all family gatherings feature lots of delicious vegan food. Adapt traditional family recipes to make them vegan. And don’t only celebrate traditional holidays – World Vegan Day, The Great American Meatout, and other veg-related holidays are perfect for establishing your own traditions. You can even celebrate new holidays like National Peanut Butter Day and Apple Pie Day.
- Take vegan vacations. You can plan your vacation to correspond to a vegan festival or conference (make sure there are plenty of child-friendly activities). Seeing lots of other vegans of all ages is a powerful reminder that your family is not alone – there are many other vegans. Alternatively, choose a vegan-friendly destination. Pick a location that has many family-friendly vegan restaurants. If you don’t live in a place with many vegan options, the first time you have vegan ice cream (and there are 30 or more flavors to choose from), is something your children will talk about for months.
- Choose books with strong vegan characters. Books for children and young adults are much more likely to feature vegan characters these days. The Vegetarian Resource Group has a list of some veggie-friendly books.
- Cook together. First of all, because it’s fun and it’s a way of sharing your love of good food. In addition, you’re teaching your children life skills. We can certainly hope that all colleges will have vegan dining halls by the time your children are college-age. If that doesn’t happen, knowing how to scramble tofu or stir-fry vegetables can make it more likely that your children will eat well even in a less veg-friendly setting.
- Get together with other vegans, preferably those with children. Many cities have vegan play groups or family-oriented gatherings. If your area doesn’t, perhaps you can start a group of your own.
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