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Thread: What to tell children and when?

  1. #1

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    Default What to tell children and when?

    I have three vegan kids, and the eldest Ava who is 4 is just starting to understand the concept of being a vegan. She is constantly asking questions and I am at a bit of a loss as to how to explain why we are vegan/what meat is without going into too much detail.

    I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas about talking to kids about animal products? I have mentioned the idea that some people eat animals, but it is a pretty unimaginable idea for my daughter at the moment. She can't differentiate between eating a kitten and eating a cow like most omni children can.

    At the moment Ava mixes with omni and vegan children, but rarely eats with anyone other that her siblings. I doubt she has noticed that her diet is different in any way to anyone else. I'm homeschooling her, but I realise that one day in the future she is going to ask questions.

    Any help/ideas on what to say?
    www.lifeonaveganfarm.blogspot.com

  2. #2

    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    I think that every parent does things differently, and this will have a lot to do with your children's emotional lives, as well as what you feel comfortable doing.

    My wife and I are rasing two kids, and all four of us are vegan. My kids are now 3 and 5.5 yo.

    What I do is different than what my wife does.

    I took a page from the conservative x-tians and let my kids know that we have a home culture that is often at odds with dominant culture. I also let them know that it doesn't mean that other folks are evil, or bad, or anything. We just do things differently. And then I tell them: "when people eat animals, the animal has to die. Look at mommy and daddy. We haven't eaten an animal for a long long time. We don't need to eat animals to live or be happy or be with family. So since we don't need to, and it hurts animals to die, we don't eat them."

    Instead of showing the graphic images, or describing the pain of death, what we've done is to go to an animal sanctuary once a year to volunteer.

    That's what I do.

    My wife is much more subtle in her approach, and pays attention to what the kids really need when they say they want to eat with their friends rather than to always make it about veganism (as I tend to do). Most often, our kids ask about veganism because they just want to belong to the group that is eating the cake, or eating donuts at the apple orchard (that was the case yesterday...). It rarely has to do with actually the reasons for veganism, but more about the social lives of kids. So honoring that is important too.

    That's what we do/say.

    It's not perfect, but it's a work in progress. When the kids are pre-teens new issues are bound to come up.
    context is everything

  3. #3
    rulska's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    From what I've seen, there are a few children's books on the subject, though I have to say there doesn't seem to be a great variety. Maybe those can be of some help.

  4. #4

    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    My lo has just turned 6 and I've been explaining veganism to her since before she could talk!
    She's always been surrounded by animals, whether the cats and dogs we have at home, or the sheep and cows in the farms that used to surround our homes in Ireland and England and in that way she sees animals as all the same and can't understand why people would eat any of them, least of all make a distinction.
    My husband is a meat eater and our daughter constantly berates him about his eating habits
    She knows her diet is different and she knows why and I think the fact that I have been vegan for so long (over 20 years') and I'm fine and healthy gives her the confidence to be that little bit different from the rest of her friends.
    Women are like teabags. We don't know our true strength until we are in hot water!

  5. #5

    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    I'm in the difficult position of having two family members with children whom have asked me to lie and say that I 'don't like' meat or dairy in front of their kids. Also, having told my mum that I am thinking of having kids, she's told me I'm going to 'set my child up for a lifetime of bullying' if I try to raise them vegan! People huh?

    Personally, I think the best way to deal with it is how my friend deals with her vegetarianism... just explain that in order for us to get certain animal based foods animals have to be hurt, and since she doesn't want to hurt animals she chooses not to eat those foods.

    I don't think most kids are able to process the horrors of factory farming, and I really don't think the way meat/dairy is made is the issue (IMHO) so going into that doesn't help.
    Quitting something because it's hard is wrong, and quitting something because it's wrong is hard. One takes cowardice, the other bravery.

  6. #6
    erynne936's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Quote Ms_Derious View Post
    I'm in the difficult position of having two family members with children whom have asked me to lie and say that I 'don't like' meat or dairy in front of their kids.
    This is terrible! (in my opinion). I wouldn't get graphic with the kids, but if they asked me why I don't eat meat I certainly wouldn't lie to them! That's just contributing to the brainwashing that society and the meat/dairy industry created! Argh. So sorry you have to deal with this!

  7. #7

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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Thanks for your ideas. It's a tricky situation as we have omni family members. I want my children to understand why we are vegan and the cruelty of meat and dairy, but I don't want them to think that their relatives are evil too. My own mother is a omni and a wondeful grandmother to my kids. I guess i'll have to explain it that "this is our choice because bla bla bla" and "some people make a different choice."
    www.lifeonaveganfarm.blogspot.com

  8. #8

    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    I can understand what you say about not wanting your lo to think the rest of the family are evil meat eaters because it may taint the view she has of them but honestly I don't think it will be the case. Even though my daughter calls her daddy a 'dirty meat eater' she only says it when she sees him eating meat and she still loves him just the same although she'll never stop trying to convert him to veganism

    She knows all her other relatives eat meat and apart from berating them if she sees them eating it (which isn't often as we live in Greece and they're all in England!) she doesn't view them as bad. She knows people are different and that only mummy eats like she does but that's fine with her because she knows and understands why. Just be honest with your daughter and answer all her questions and then I'm sure you'll find she'll form her own opinions.
    Women are like teabags. We don't know our true strength until we are in hot water!

  9. #9

    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Quote jamesfamily View Post
    Thanks for your ideas. It's a tricky situation as we have omni family members. I want my children to understand why we are vegan and the cruelty of meat and dairy, but I don't want them to think that their relatives are evil too. My own mother is a omni and a wondeful grandmother to my kids. I guess i'll have to explain it that "this is our choice because bla bla bla" and "some people make a different choice."
    We're in the same boat.

    My folks and my in-laws all eat prodigious amounts of animals.

    I'm Latino in a white-dominant city/county, and I speak Spanish to my kids exclusively in an English dominant local society, so making a point that "We're different than others" is quite easy. We are different. We have different customs than our parents, and some are "ethical" while others are not. We make a point to say that what we do doesn't make us good or evil, but that they, as people, will be making choices like this as they get older.

    Afterall, we try to prepare our kids to be vegan for when we aren't around. To me, the kids making ethical decisions when they aren't with us is much more important than how they behave when we are around.
    context is everything

  10. #10
    ZoeP's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    There's some really good advice here. My boy is just turning three, and whilst he eats vegan at home and when with me, he eats vegetarian at nursery, and hopefully also when he stops with his dad (although his dads family is omni, so i can't be sure that they feed him veggie, as it's a strange concept for them). I want him to understand that he eats differently, but i don't want him, to feel different to the other kids.

    And Ms.derious, thats terrible, I'm sorry you're in that situation with your family!

  11. #11
    Cathriiine's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    I never lie to my kids. I tell them exactly the way it is. I also work in a kindergarden where the kids asks me why I don't eat the food they are eating at lunch, and of course I can't tell them everything 'cause then I would get fired.
    But I always say "I don't eat animals or their milk or eggs because I love animals and don't want to harm them". And that's that. My kids are not vegans (yet), but my daughter (7) have seen slaughterhouse movies and been told stories about animal cruelty, and she thinks it's horrible. Yet she says she loves meat and want to eat it. It creeps me out a little, but at least she's not a cold hearted person, I just don't think she can totally grasp the reality here. Especially since her father is a big time meat eater.

  12. #12

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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    I have found the book "That's why we don't eat animals" by Ruby Roth to be a great tool.

    It is very subtle and child-compatible but brings home the message without gruesome details.

    Of course, when I bought the book, my wife berated me for 'trying to brain-wash our children' which I found totally over the top. I am happy in the way that my wife (after 14 years of living with me) is now finally following a plant-based diet (for health reasons) herself. However, she will still buy and prepare animal products for our kids when they ask for them. My second son (7 years) has now - on his own - decided that he does not want to eat meat anymore and sticks with it. He still eats fish and lots of cheese, but at school he just eats the side orders, even if others try to get him to eat meat. I am really proud of him. My first son (8 years) understands the concept but likes meat too much to change. If only my wife had 'seen the light' 10 years earlier, but what can you do....

    Best regards,
    Andy

  13. #13

    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    At the moment I am telling my 2 year old that those (non-vegan) things hurt the animals and the things we eat don't. She gets it and never argues with me if something she sees (and initially wants) isn't vegan. Luckily we have a very supportive network of people, family and friends included and they always make sure there is something delicious for her.

  14. #14
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    IMHO the best way is to give them simple, honest answers - and tell them something which is easy for even a kid to understand: we don't want animals to die or suffer, and that all living beings should be have the freedom to have live the way they want.

    For some people the freedom aspect of it the difficult part. Not animals' freedom, but children's freedom to be involved in something (eating meat etc) which many adults see as harmful both for them, for the animals of course, and for the environment.

    One living being's freedom often means restrictions for someone else, and that's true for eating meat as well... so, if a child shall have the freedom to eat meat, an animal won't have the freedom to live. If the child shall have the freedom to hit another kid, the other kid won't have the freedom to not feel pain. I don't think *any* parents follow the idea that a kid shall have limitless freedom, including freedom to do things that are dangerous for them or others.

    And - way more important than giving meat to a child as such, is the fact that feeding a kid on meat also give the child food/taste habits that will be harder to break the older the child becomes. A child's freedom to eat meat belongs to the category of 'freedoms' that may harm both others and the child.

    I've found this very easy to explain to kids: as soon as they are old enough to ask questions about this, they are also old enough to understand that nobody wants to be hurt, and therefore it doesn't make sense to hurt others either. No animal cruelty videos have been needed.

    A little later they also understand that if they would be responsible for feeding someone they really cared for, they wouldn't feed it with things that could be bad for them or which meant that someone had to suffer. Even a young kid understand that even if it were to feed a dog or a cat, it's not a good idea to give the animal something which may be harmful for them, even if the animal really wanted it.

    And since the habit creating part of this is so much more important than each of the animal based meals a parents may give their child, it's incredibly important, the way I see it, to stay away from giving children habits which aren't good for them. Even if I wouldn't have been a vegan, I wouldn't know how to answer a question from a child that has grown up who would ask me why I have fed him or her or animal products.

    I think that becoming a parent should count as one of the major factor why a non-vegan should consider vegan. If we are vegans, but get children with the habit of eating meat, we may save 1000 animals lives by our own lifestyle, but harm 1000 other animals by bringing a new person into the world which contributes to animal suffering.

    And: if our children become parents, the likelihood that this pattern will continue for generations to come is very high. So - luckily, children are a lot better than adults at understanding why we don't want to hurt animals. They'll never come up silly theories about food pyramids or 'humans have the right to kill animals' - the just understand it, intuitively.

    In the rare case that a vegan lives with a meat eater who thinks it's harmful to live on a vegan diet , it could of course be problematic. But most of all, it would be problematic for him/her to back up his theory in any scientific way, and s/he would have to deal with the fact that ten thousands of dietitians disagree with him/her.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Hey everyone

    My hubby and I were having a very similar discussion the other day about what we will tell our little boy when he gets a little older. He's 6 1/2 months at the moment, so happily eats anything (and I mean ANYTHING) that we offer him!

    We are in a slightly different position as he has a genetic condition which will cause pretty severe learning disabilites and social anxieties, so we don't know how much he will understand about the differences between mommy and daddys choices and the rest of his little world!

    The thing that I am struggling to get my head around, is that so many vegan food alternatives have meat style names (chicken style pieces, vegan tuna etc). If he's never going to be given it at home, why do we have to call it by meaty names??!! We did think about creating a whole new vegan food language for him, but we struggled to think of non meaty names for the food!!

    I guess it's just a case of wait and see, be honest, and keep him away from grandparents who find it amusing to waft yukky burgers and sausages in front of us at BBQ's as though we might be enticed into eating some...........

    Take it easy folks

    Kathryn

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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    my dd is 5 and we've only been vegan for about 6 months, but she's already quite the advocate, lol. we've talked about it in a bunch of different ways. even before we were vegan, we talked about food and what was healthy and what wasn't, so she was familiar with discussing food and knew that some foods should only be eaten in small quantities, etc.

    when i became vegan (and dh is happy to eat vegan at home and only rarely eats meat or dairy when out and dd doesn't know about that), we started by talking about the health reasons b/c that's why i initially started eating vegan. i was following dr. mcdougall's diet. so we talked a lot about how/why animal foods aren't good for us. then as i got more and more convicted about it ethically, we moved into talking about that. since we had eaten animals before, it was easy to discuss how i didn't want to be responsible for any more animals dying. we talked about our pets and how we wouldn't eat them etc.

    dd is VERY smart so she started asking about dairy and eggs. i breastfeed and dd weaned at 3.5yo (and definitely fondly remembers breastfeeding!) and i'm currently breastfeeding her almost 2yo brothers, so we talked about how the mama cows and baby cows feel when they calves are taken from their mommies', and how they cry and the mamas cry, etc. her preschool even visited a small dairy last year and she saw how they fed the calves from "bottles". and again, we discussed the nutrition part too.

    the most recent thing we've talked about is how factory farming hurts the earth. nothing graphic, but enough that dd understands.

    so dd has decided that when she's a "big people" she's going to give a concert to tell everyone about how they shouldn't eat the animals b/c it hurts the animals and how the cows are sad b/c their babies get taken away and b/c it hurts the earth. she was singing in the car the other day about how we shouldn't eat chickens because it hurts the earth, lol.

    so i think just a lot of dialogue is great.

  17. #17
    Cathriiine's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Livingfree: I got tears in my eyes reading that! What a fantastic little girl, just want to get on the first plane and just hug her!
    My daughter is almosy 8 years old and she loves meat, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy. She has seen Earthlings and other similar videos, and I have talked a lot about this industry and why I'm vegan. But she can't grasp it. She loves animals, but she don't want to stop eating them. It's almost a little scary that my little beautiful girl seems so "cold" when it comes to this. But her father is not vegan and he is her hero, so maybe if HE comes around some day ...

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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Cathriiine,

    have you tried 'mock' products?
    Unfortunately, my own kids (especially my older one) are the best 'mock animal product spotters' in the world, and not too fond of it. Especially my younger son who is now vegetarian (with the exception of fish) does not want to taste vegan sausages, I guess he's afraid he might want to eat the "real thing" if he likes it.

    Best regards,
    Andy

  19. #19
    Cathriiine's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Thanks for the advice, Andy! I have tried some mock products, and they only like the vegetarian ones (we have some really good mock products here in Norway, but they are ovo-vegetarian). But that's at least better than the real thing, and maybe a step forward into veganism. My 3-year old son is more like me, he likes veggie food and eat what I serve him, but my daughter loves fish, for instance, and want it all the time. Just have to see how it goes, I guess. I am very honest when she ask me why I don't eat animal products.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: What to tell children and when?

    Livingfree: Please tell your daughter that we'd like to purchase the first tickets to the concert!! I really hope we do such a good job with our little fella! She sounds absolutely awesome, a huge credit to you I'm sure!!

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