Childcare and Veganism: What Do I Do
While the number of people becoming Vegan is increasing exponentially, vegans are still faced with the majority of the general public being meat and dairy consumers. Parents of children with deadly allergies still have to fight to make sure their child isn’t exposed. How then, are vegan parents supposed to navigate the world of childcare and be able to trust that their children are not being given animal products? For children, being vegan is easy when their parents provide all of their food but what do parents do when the public introduces a host of new hurdles? Perhaps these tips will help you and your situation
My friend/family member will be caring for my child and this person does not support my vegan beliefs. I cannot afford other care.
This is probably the toughest situation of them all. Without the financial ability to make other choices, vegan parents can be left with a less than ideal situation. Depending on the strength and open communication of this relationship, the approach can be anywhere from delicate to aggressive. The approach can also depend upon whether this person is simply doing you a favor or if they genuinely want to be the caregiver for your child(ren). I would suggest a delicate approach to begin with coupled with education as to the reasons why you choose this lifestyle. Also, be prepared to back up your choices with facts because you will often be met with skepticism. The most common objections from loved ones are that you are enforcing your beliefs on to your children, or that your children won’t get enough nutrition and sadly, even simple mocking of the lifestyle choice occurs. Each of these objections can be dealt with if you have the right information as well as the courage to provide the education. Enforcing your beliefs on to your children is actually a simple argument to win. People do this in pretty much every single aspect of child rearing. Whether it is trough controlling their diet, teaching the belief in a god, performing the act of circumcision, piercing a child’s ears, or the banning of electronics, parents make decisions every single day that effect what a child will or will not believe and the culture they will subscribe to. There are numerous studies in existence that detail how, when planned and thought out, a vegan diet is not only healthy but also more beneficial to a growing body than the consumption of the meat and dairy. Take this study for example. It shows that those who are vegan have a much lower risk of diabetes, hypertension and cancer as well as a lower body mass index. It also states that there is an absolute benefit to humans in all stages of the life cycle, including children and adolescents! If a loved one is mocking your lifestyle choice, I would suggest speaking to them about respect and why they seem to have none for you. As an adult and a loving family member, this should be something that is automatically extended to you. A respectful but firm conversation as to why this is not provided to you should definitely be had. You may want to explore alternatives such as public assistance for childcare or in-home daycare options that tend to be much less expensive. Another option is working for a childcare center for discounted or free care. With some creative research you may find that you are able to obtain assistance from the government or that you can locate a much less expensive caregiver. While continued discussions should ensue with those who are close to you, there may come a point in which your lifestyle choices will need to trump respectful conversation and even financial comfort.
My child will be entering daycare/pre-school
This one can prove to be a tough one. As you know, there are numerous children who have life threatening food allergies. Children under five who have these allergies may understand, on a certain level, what they should and should not eat. However, asking them to make that choice on a daily basis is akin to holding a treat in front of a puppy and saying no – you are setting them up for failure. Couple that with other the mindset of a group of under five year olds who don’t have allergies and don’t understand them, you are bound to have one kid offering their food to another – a very innocent but potentially deadly situation. Due to this, most under-five year old childcare centers do not allow outside food to be brought in. They tend to serve nut free and sometimes, dairy free choices. If you have a child in this age group, I highly recommend that you interview potential childcare centers to find out about their policies. Some of them may allow you to provide alternatives for your child if you are able to prove that they are nut free, which is usually based on the packaging. Spend the time interviewing as many places as you can so you can determine what their policies are. There will be situations, such as in more rural areas, in which a variety of options will just not be a reality. In these situations, you will need to work with your options, sometimes very aggressively, in order to allow you to eat least provide naturally allergen-free options. If you do find yourself and children in this situation, please do get involved in community planning committees, parent teach organizations, and/or any other group that may listen and provide support.
My child is school age
This age is easier and harder for different reasons. The easier part is that you can simply pack lunch and snacks for this age group. The harder parts are your child’s rebellious nature and school parties. Most schools have meet and greets with teachers so you can easily discuss your beliefs and family desires. Also, with how prevalent technology is, many teachers keep in regular touch with parents though school websites, email and other social media. Initiate a dialogue with the teacher. You can request anything from being notified in advance of any school parties so you can have vegan snacks ready to being able to keep certain snacks on hand for your kiddos – all you have to do is ask. I have found, that for the most part, teachers want to work with you and will, if you communicate. Through discussion and expression of my desires, it has my experience, that you won’t be met with much resistance at this age. Additionally, I highly recommend that you empower your children at this age. Even the kindergarten age group can be empowered with knowledge. Start with the basics of why you chose to be vegan and, as their maturity develops, give them more and more information and education as to why you are vegan. While some kids are naturally rebellious and will do things just to be different from their parents and to be like their friends, for the most part, kids believe in their parents. Kids definitely know, from a very young age, that animals are precious. Unless this knowledge is unschooled from them, kids naturally love animals. Nourish that innocence and promote that love.
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