We were all kids at some time, right? At certain points in our childhood, our peers became very important, and their opinions even more so. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who was tempted to do something that my mom explicitly told me not to do, or tempted to not do something that I knew I was ordered to do. At the time, it definitely seemed worth whatever consequences I would face. Oh, how wonderful it would’ve been if someone had given my mom some tricks to get me to follow her rules!
Well this is your lucky day. I’m going to give you some pointers on how to keep your children vegan in a non-vegan world. Getting them to obey you in other situations is up to you.
1. Because our children’s friends can have a huge impact on their decision making, make the friends unwitting allies.
Let your children share your most child-friendly foods. Have the friends over for veggie burgers and fries or pizza. Make sure to add sugar: cookies, cake, brownies, frozen desserts. Popcorn, chips, pretzels and home-made soda. The friends will have no problem accepting your child’s way of eating, making it easier for your child to be more accepting too.
2. Be sure to teach your children the values that led you to veganism.
Many times, we expect our children to just follow what we say and do without truly understanding why. When we want them to stand strong in their values, we have to arm them with the information to defend their actions to themselves. If animal rights brought you to veganism, be sure to teach your children real compassion, not just for animals, but for all living things, including other humans. If your decision to become vegan was health-based, teach your children how their bodies work and what best fuels them. If your decision is religious based, teach them your doctrine and explain how it should be applied to their daily lives.
3. Be the example that your children should follow.
I remember as child being told to stay away from drugs and alcohol while simultaneously being told to fetch a beer from the fridge. These conflicting messages no doubt led to recreational use of alcohol that seemed typical but never really made sense to me. I hated the taste of alcohol and I hated the behavior that I witnessed as a result of the overuse of alcohol. Yet I chose to partake because I was taught by example that it was normal and acceptable.
Imagine how powerful the message to abstain from alcohol and drugs had been if the messenger also abstained. Our children watch us and they know when our words don’t match our actions. If you want your children to remain plant-based, don’t let them catch you doing the opposite. Be the change…..
4. Give your children cooking lessons.
We have a family friend who has 3 siblings. She shared with me that, while growing up, she and her sisters each had a night that they were responsible for dinner. I thought that was such a simple yet brilliant idea. It took some of the pressure off of her parents, who had spent their entire day working to provide for their family. Secondly, it gave the children a chance to learn a vanishing skill that can prevent overconsumption of processed food and fast food. I decided that we would do that too.
When my oldest child moved into her own apartment, I was relieved that she could provide healthy meals from good quality ingredients because of what she learned in her family home. All of my older children have at least one night of dinner preparation. They are decent cooks who can feed themselves with the same food they were raised on.
5. Teach your children to be proud of their lifestyle without being judgmental.
One of the most important skills I have learned being vegan is controlling my mouth and facial expressions while watching other people eat food that I would never eat. Vegans have a reputation of being didactic and critical, always judging people who aren’t vegan. We’re annoying. Our mere presence convicts them, making them justify their food and lifestyle choices without being accused of anything.
Not focusing on others and turning that focus inward allows us to relax and be more personable, well-liked, and tolerant. It also prevents being “othered” by everyone else. If we are more accepting, we will be more accepted.
6. Let your kids know that they are perfect, flawed, beautiful, capable, and smart human beings with an unlimited number of gifts for them to share with the world.
This is probably the most important tip. If you are convinced that you are exactly what you’re supposed to be, there won’t be a person on the planet who can tell you otherwise. A strong, confident person with a healthy self-esteem can stand firm in his/her values in all situations and against any opposition. We start out at a disadvantage when we have self-doubt and fear. Give your children a strong foundation to stand on so that they can maintain their lifestyle in a world that may discourage it.
7. Lastly, remind them that they are loved regardless.
Most of us need to bump our heads to learn a lesson. I don’t expect that my children won’t ever do things that I’ve advised them not to do. The reality is that they are autonomous human beings who have a right to be the people that they choose to be, even if I don’t agree. They have been given the tools to walk the path that was laid before them, but it remains their choice to make. Even if they try another path, there would always be a chance that they’d be back. I’m grateful they have decided to remain vegan, but they know that I would love them anyway, even if they hadn’t.
Looking Through Vegan Colored Glasses is a vegan lifestyle blog curated by a Black mom and four of her vegan raised kids, covering their opinions on health, food, and fashion.