As parents, all we really want is our kids to be happy. To not end up in jail and be happy. Okay, to not end up in jail, be happy and be healthy. With that last word comes a whole array of physiological and psychological baggage. How do we keep our kids healthy? Once the basics are covered (warmth, sleep, nourishment etc.) then we can really start to worry about their psychological well-being.
As vegan parents, we worry that they won’t be included because they won’t be seen as “normal” and, that along with dealing with usual school horrors, they’ll also have to deal with a barrage of questions: “Why are you vegan?” “Don’t you want a hamburger?” “Are your parents forcing you?” “Vegetables are yuck.” Ok, that last one isn’t a question but you get my gist. So, you want to arm them with information, with words to protect them from mockery and scoffing and, who knows, to be better able to inform others.
So, how do we best arm our children? What can they say when asked questions about eating vegan? Here are some tips:
1. It’s Healthy
There is more and more evidence that eating plant-based food is by far the healthiest day-to-day diet and can also help prevent diseases. There have been many cases where people with advanced diabetes or heart disease had their symptoms decrease or completely disappear following a vegan diet. See these 5 Must-Watch Videos About the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet and this article Forever Young: The Anti-Aging Benefits of Plant-Based Foods to fuel your knowledge.
2. It’s Yummy
Now this is where you’re going to have the most sway and, therefore, give the most power to your child. In a culture where sugary snacks and chicken nuggets are considered the most delicious by young children, you’re going to have to make some damn delicious meals to convince your child and help them make their peers and other parents understand. Developing your repertoire of recipes for children will help them attest to a vegan diet being really yummy. (Nutritional yeast will be your best friend). See this article on How to Feed Vegan Kids.
3. It Doesn’t Hurt Animals
Avoiding cruelty really counts with children. It’ll depend on the child, but even very small children understand that harming an animal causes it pain. The more children can relate the hunk of beef on the table to Daisy the cow, the less they’ll be okay with the idea of slitting Daisy’s throat.
4. It’s Better for the Environment
Meat has an enormous impact on the environment. A United Nations report explains that globally the livestock sector is “one of the two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems,” including climate change, air and water pollution, land degradation, and biodiversity loss.
5. Be Age and Child Relevant
You don’t want to terrify your two year-old by showing them images of screaming dolphins in the film Earthlings, but maybe your sixteen year old would benefit from witnessing some of the real horrors of animal treatment out there. Each child will be different and as their parent, you will know how to best cater to their inquisitive minds. I believe each child is born compassionate and with a huge love for animals. It’s our responsibility to honor and cultivate that compassion. That is the level on which they will then function and respond to others.
6. Be the Role Model
Those on a plant-based diet are often very informed eaters. They know where their food comes from and they know an awful lot about nutrition. Tell your child why you eat the way you eat. When others ask you about your veganism, let them know you think it’s healthy and aligned with your core values. Modeling this behavior with confidence will help your children to follow suit. Of course, how you handle other people will depend a lot on your personality and your chosen form of veganism. If you’re inclined to be militant, your child may model that behavior until adolescence. Going down the “killing animals is murder” route might color friends and family badly in your child’s eyes. Perhaps a softer approach can be more effective in reaching others and prevent rapid friend loss.
7. Encourage Them to Make Their Own Informed Choices
“You’re just doing this because your parents make you.” Damn straight, parents impose their values on their children all the time, it’s called parenting. However, as soon as kids get their own pocket money, the draw of sweets and other non-vegan foods may become attractive. (Have their lunch boxes packed with scrumptious vegan alternatives) but when your child really gets it, when they internalize the lesson, then they will be communicating and therefore promoting their personal version of veganism with autonomy. If your child wants to eat meat, they will. Educate and inform them and, hopefully, they will become conscious and compassionate consumers who can answer any question thrown in their direction with confidence.
8. Surround Yourself With Families and Friends with a Similar Outlook
As a family, finding other families who share your ideals will just make it easier. Then, being vegan isn’t even an issue. You get to share meals and your children get to feel “normal.” Veganism is at an all time high, which, if you’re a Green Monster, is inspiring. Also, you and your child might learn some new ways to answer questions about veganism.
Still need some ideas on how to help your kids answer questions about veganism? There are some great resources out there to help your kids answer questions. “Raising vegan children is an exciting and rewarding adventure. It presents a remarkable opportunity to help construct the future we all yearn to have for ourselves and our children – a world brimming with vibrant good health, loving kindness, peace, tolerance, and compassion for all.”
Lead image source: USDA/Wikimedia