As in almost all things we have to teach our kids, the line between what we want them to know about right and wrong is consistently blurred by outside influences. This leaves parents with the daunting task of clarifying belief systems, helping our vegan children understand what it means to be ethical and compassionate towards animals and doing it without alienating those who don’t hold the same beliefs.
Tell the truth Ruth, or Truthiness at Least
The unimaginable cruelty that animals are subjected to does not need to be displayed for your children to believe you. Young kids want to believe their parents and most of them have an innate love for animals, without conditions. Nourish that love and they will see animals as their friends, sisters, and brothers. Nevertheless, kids want to be like other kids and do what they do so conflict will arise in more social settings. Younger kids won’t quite grasp why they cannot partake in the pizza and the ice cream while older kids may decide to fine tune their defiance setting. This is where using truthiness will help. Be creative and use their dislikes against them. Do they hate mushrooms? Perhaps they are under all of that cheese.
Connections are the golden key
We can talk to kids until the sound of our own voice horrifies our own ears but without some kind of physical connection, our message is likely to be lost in translation. Sanctuaries and rescue shelters are everywhere. Kids need to touch and interact with animals on a personal level. Looking into the eyes of an animal is a powerful motivator and allows kids to grasp the gravity of animal’s life. In time, kids will begin to recognize the association between these beautiful creatures and the meat industry and will begin to reject it without needing much encouragement from you.
Who is listening to you?
Your approach to explanations will need to be different and tailored to the age and personality of your children. Your defiant 5-year-old will have different needs than your know it all 12-year-old. Understand what works for them and work within those borders. The driving force for our lifestyle has deep seeded violence and cruelty attached to it. While your 5-year-old may understand it, is their childhood innocence worth being scarred by watching Earthlings? But perhaps your 12-year-old, who loves to Google search everything, is ready for more exposure. Always know your audience and be prepared for negative reactions.
Don’t be afraid to tap out
Most kids today love all things social media. There are options that teach kids and relate to them on playing fields most parents will never have tickets to. If your kids are anything like mine, they sometimes believe complete strangers telling them that the earth is flat so long as it isn’t coming from mom or dad. Social media has also allowed for a multitude of parenting groups that are both national and local. Join up and find some people who share your beliefs – you’re likely to be surprised at how many plant-based parents exist. And then ask those animal rescue shelters and sanctuaries if they have educational opportunities for kids. Most of them can’t wait to teach people about the animals they care for!
Supportive, sensitive Sally
When kids ask why some people eat animals, be honest but gentle. Not everyone has the same beliefs but we love them anyway because compassion is at the core of Veganism. Ultimately, your children are watching you and will learn from you. You don’t want your children to be wary or mistrustful of their loved ones that just aren’t on the same page as you (yet).