Raising Your Child Vegan: How To Explain Veganism To Children

Armen Hareyan's picture
Vegan food for children

Few days ago after watching the documentary "What The Health" we decided to become Vegan. Our family is used to eating vegan meals for an extended periods as Lent in our tradition basically means eating vegan. We hope this change is permanent, but how do you explain vegan diet and that we don't eat meat to children?

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As I was searching for more information on vegan parenting I noticed that there are other parents asking the same question: how to raise your child vegan. Here is one parent's plea that I read on Facebook asking the same question about vegan parenting and what to do when you children are constantly around meat products and you don't get much support from your family.

"I really need help! My son is four and I am trying to convert him to a vegan diet. My family does not help much and he is constantly around meat products. I don't know how to explain to him that we don't eat meat and how to explain to my family to respect my vegan wishes. Everything I say to try to educate them isn't working. The facts and vegan documentaries are not good enough apparently and I just don't know how to help my son better understand veganism. Can anyone with children that can give me some tips on how to raise vegan children? Every little bit is helpful. I try saying things like "we love the animals" and "we don't want to hurt them" and they are not good for our bodies, but it's not clicking," asks Jessica in Vegans United group on Facebook.

One option is simply cook for them vegan meals. You simply tell your family that that is how it is and they need to respect that. "I always told my kids where meat comes from and I that I didn't want to hurt any animals so that's why we didn't eat them," explains one vegan parent. Raising vegan children requires patience, kindness and love. When you talk to your children about being kind, mention vegan diet and that's a natural conversation about respect and kindness towards all living beings. Also assure them that they can still stay full on a vegan diet and there is nothing wrong with it.

Mimic Children's Favorite Food, But In Vegan Style

"When I was transitioning my family to vegan diet, I made what I call "vegan junk food," like burgers, pizza, let them eat Oreo cookies, chips, sandwiches and stuff like that. You have to give them stuff they used to eat but in vegan form. They have been doing great. Now my son will ask me 'does this have eggs in it mom' when we are at the grocery store to see if he can have it. Once they are all settled then try new things. As far as family and other meat eaters go, I put my foot down and am not shy to speak up and tell them this is what is best for my family. They will still offer us meat foods and I firmly say no. Hope this helps. I have all boys 4, 7 and 11," writes a vegan parent named Larissa in the group.

Make vegan cooking fun. My children love avocados. So for example, I would introduce them few of these 5 vegan recipes using avocados. About two years ago my wife started liking avocados a lot and children followed enjoying avocados.

Another parent, named Bessie writes how they transitioned to vegan diet. "When we transitioned our children to vegan diet, we got them some substitute items and found out how to make things like tofu scramble to replace their eggs and let them try different plant milks until they decided which one they liked best, and told them, "see, no animals have to get hurt and we can still have yummy food." We showed them farm sanctuary videos and kids vegan recipe videos and let them make some new dishes with us to help get them involved. We took them to the grocery store and showed them how sad the lobsters are, and that we are vegan to help animals like them. So far as family goes, unfortunately that's ongoing, they still don't think the kids should be vegan, so we have just had to say, "its whats best for them and they are animal friends, and they are happy to be vegan." We just have to be firm with the family," Bessie writes.

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Take Children To Sanctuaries

Another thing that people say has worked well for vegan parenting is to take your children to nearby animal sanctuaries. Are there any sanctuary you can go to? It really helps to see animals in person - for kids. Even teens who are stubborn and not raised to care can benefit from it.

Take your children to a sanctuary farm. Let them be around animals and touch them. That will help them to make the connection that these are the animals people are eating and that they feel pain like we all do. That they are the same as dogs and cats. Let your children make friends with the animals that people eat. We are so far removed from the food chain that it's easy for children to disassociate.

Let Your Children Participate in Grocery Shopping

When you go to do your grocery shopping, take your children with you. Let them participate in food shopping process. Ask them questions and even make it look like a game the objective of which is who will choose the healthiest groceries for the dinner.

The Role of Vegan Parenting

On the other hand some parents think vegan diet should be a choice your children make on their own with internal motivation when the time is right. If vegan parents show their children that they have a choice they may eventually come to it with internal motivation. I don't know. But I think if parents consistently cook healthy vegan meals in their homes during the week even if they have guests coming during the weekends or they go visit relatives and friends and kids fill compelled to eat meat parents would still do a good job introducing healthy food to their children during the week.

But some parents also note that the concept of not "pushing" your child to do the right thing is ridiculous. Parents set rules and boundaries for a child based on what's best for them and safe for others. Eating animals sure isn't that. Blindly letting kids eat anything or anyone they choose is lazy parenting and not vegan. As you see there is no one and convincing answer to vegan parenting trying to raise vegan children. However, there are number of things parents can do and the most practical of them seems to be simply to cook vegan meals. For example, you don't have to explain your children you are vegan that's why you have rice pilaf with vegetables for the dinner.

Also see: Raising A Vegan Family: Solutions to common vegan parenting social challenges.

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