Why I Sometimes Let My Kids Eat Animal Products
My nine-year-old old son, Josh, attended a school camp a few months ago. As is customary, the school sent out a questionnaire and indemnity waiver. I was asked to fill in my son’s dietary requirements. Simple. “Vegan”, I wrote, without a second thought, we didn’t eat animal products.
He returned home after the two nights away. As you can imagine, I was over the moon to see him and ran to give him a hug as he stepped off the bus. Immediately I noticed his face was ashen, and he nudged me away with tears running down his cheeks.
The car drive home is usually a time when I can extract some details from him about his day, but I got nothing on this particular day.
When we got home he ran away and I found him about 200m down the road sitting under a tree, sobbing. I was determined to find out from my devastated child what exactly had happened that had made him so upset.
It was the “V” word.
Josh had been ridiculed by his friends, alienated at meal times and fed food that almost any child would turn down. He recounted stories of cold aubergine on bread for lunch, potato fries for dinner, and no ice cream or cake to celebrate his best friend’s birthday, because he didn’t eat animal products.
It had been a tough few days for him and he had now decided that he definitely wasn’t a vegan anymore and that no amount of discussing it further would make him change his mind.
What did I do next?
I let go a little. Yes, I let my child take the lead. In the house, we were vegan. Outside the home, he could make some of his own choices to eat animal products.
Did I like his choices? No. But, I did decide to make this a learning experience for the both of us.
Being a parent has some serious challenges but bringing up vegan children in a non-vegan world – yes, you need a superhero suit to cope with that. It’s tough, really tough. And I can sympathize.
So here are a few ideas to help you out. These are purely from my personal experience as a parent and why I sometimes let him eat animal products:
- Allow your child some freedom at some point to explore the non-vegan world (if this is their desire). By being totally inflexible (with some children), you can end up with a child that rebels against veganism or engages with “short-lived veganism”. What I mean by that, is that when your child is a teenager and can make their choices, they may choose to include animal products in their diet again. By allowing some freedom earlier on in life, the likelihood is that they will stay vegan for longer.
- Remember, your child is not you. It is up to you to teach them the values that you hold as a family unit. You are there to guide them and inspire them. If they make different choices to you as they get older, don’t take it personally or as a sign you have failed.
- Keep mealtimes exciting. Get creative in the kitchen with your children – try making food art with the vegetables (think Rainbow Wraps, Noughts, and Crosses (winner eats all) and become a master of disguise (hide the veggies they don’t usually like to eat!).
- Tell stories. My kids grew up calling broccoli “fairy trees”, beans “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Make
vegetablepart of a fun, fantasy world.
- Talk about the food you have made. Let your kids know about the health benefits (educating yourself and your children will greatly benefit you all), the way you prepared it, and where it comes from (for example if it’s homegrown, from a farm nearby). Talking about where animal products come from too, may help the rest of the family understand your point of view (keep emotions out of these discussions – be frank, honest and logical).
- Realise that everyone is on their own journey. You cannot enforce your own feelings on others. Listen to their point of view, be kind, and give your own thoughts in a non-confrontational way. Plant seeds. Do not judge. Be compassionate.
- Be prepared for events. School “sausage sizzles”, fundraisers, get-togethers, and kids’ parties all typically include animal products. Pack some options for your kids. I always take a packet of Fry’s Sausages or Sausage Rolls so that my children get to participate in these events without feeling left out.
- Connect with animals. Go to a farm sanctuary together and spend time with the rescued animals. Make sure your kids have a real connection with real animals.
While I want my children to be vegan, I don’t want them to just live this lifestyle because it’s forced on them when young and then they can’t wait to ditch it as they get older. Allowing kids the freedom to make their own choices of what they eat when they’re outside of the home, in my opinion, is the best strategy to create happy, compassionate, long-term vegans.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author’s capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Raise Vegan itself.