Many parents will resonate with teaching children the values of kindness and compassion to all living creatures with the hope they will grow into kind and compassionate adults. Children naturally love animals and everywhere you look they are being encouraged to do so – animal books and cartoon characters, soft toys, pets etc. Yet, at the same time, they are served animals as food.
My intention as a vegan writer is to help children to grow up in a world where this type of hypocrisy doesn’t exist and in doing so I have published a variety of books to guide both children and parents alike. Books include short stories such as ‘Juliette and the Cat and, Vegan Nursery Rhymes and ‘How to Survive a Flesh-Eating-Zombie Apocalypse’.
On the premise of vegan parenting though, there are also some practical steps you can implement into your daily life. Here are just a few..
4 Tips for Parents Who Wish To Teach Their Children About Veganism
Always tell them the truth.
There is always a simple and gentle way of explaining the truth, and children are never too young to hear it. Give them the facts, without judgment, and they will tell you that the way humans treat animals is wrong.
My message is, ‘Don’t just blindly sing along to Baa Baa Black Sheep or Old MacDonald, think about the meaning of the words’. Nursery rhymes are a great way of teaching children as they are memorable (especially if they have a melody) and often short. Younger children will enjoy the rhymes and pictures in my books whereas older children can use them as a way of explaining their veganism to others.
Grow, cook and bake your own.
In a world where we are so disconnected with our choices, it’s important to teach children where their food comes from. My son is only young but from being a baby has watched me prepare and cook meals in the kitchen. He knows that a meal takes time to prepare and has observed all the processes involved. First, we go into the garden together to pick the vegetables, then we take them to the kitchen to be washed, chopped up and turned into something lovely. Whether you have space to grow your own or not, you can still involve your child by taking them to the shops and letting them choose some fruits and vegetables they like the look of. Their interest can also be maintained by sampling whatever you are cutting such as a piece of carrot or a bit of raw broccoli!
Let things be a talking point.
It is no good trying to pretend we live in a vegan world, much as we would love to. But anything your child comes across that contradicts their vegan views can be a talking point – it doesn’t have to be hidden away. An example of this would be a Peppa Pig book I bought from the charity shop for my son. We got home and started reading the book, and all was well, then we turned the page and there was Grandpa Pig keeping bees and stealing honey! My son didn’t say anything at the time but I remember putting the book away thinking, ‘we won’t be reading that again!’ and planning to send it back to the charity shop as soon as the next bag came through the door! For ages after that I would read whole books in shops before I bought them, to make sure they were ‘suitable’ and that a beloved character wouldn’t suddenly eat sausage and egg for breakfast! These days, I am much more confident and relaxed about what I let him see. Whilst I am never going to buy books about happy farm animals, or farm toys with smiley faces, if my son happens to see his favourite cartoon character eating cheese I feel now that I can use it as a talking point and help him to reinforce his own values, teaching him, in the process, to be tolerant of others.
This is a tip for any parent really, but as vegan parents I think we sometimes need to remind ourselves that we are actively contributing to a changing world, a kinder world, and that is something to smile about. Remember that bringing your child up vegan doesn’t have to be hard. It is normal and natural, and vegan children don’t have to be ‘different’. When I was first asked to come up with 5 tips for vegan parents I immediately thought of all the usual ones such as ‘take vegan sweets in your handbag along to children’s parties so your child won’t feel left out’ etc. but then I thought, as a vegan parent, you probably do that already. Smile that the world has changed so much in the last ten years that your child can go to a party and be catered for, smile that he isn’t the only vegan in his class, or that his teacher buys vegan sweets at Christmas because they are suitable for everyone. We still have a long way to go, but the more we make a positive contribution to the world we live in, rather than dismiss it, the more that world will continue to change.