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What Going Vegan Taught My Children


Today’s post is by guest writer Samantha Rodman, Ph.D.

My family has been vegan since April 2018. I was interested in plant-based eating for a while, based on health reasons, but I shamefully had not thought much about the ethical impact of eating meat since I was a child.  Our family ate meat and/or dairy at every meal.  Then, one day on the car ride home from school, my middle child, who was 7 years old at that time, said to me, “We should be vegetarian.” I asked why, and she said she didn’t want to hurt animals.  Being a Super Awesome Parent, I said, “That’s nice, but I have enough stress without entirely changing how we eat.  We are not going vegetarian.”

By the end of the car ride though, I was willing to research more about the issue. That night we watched Cowspiracy, and the next, Forks Over Knives.  My kids watched along with me, at ages 5, 7, and 9.  We watched a few more documentaries as well, including some short ones on YouTube.  Within a matter of days, I had resolved to go vegan.

After seeing the impact on my kids of going vegan, I firmly believe that, in addition to being the ethical choice for the planet, going vegan is a wonderful way to teach kids essential life lessons. Here’s some of what they, and I, have learned from adopting this way of eating.

  • Decisions should be made on ethics and values, rather than likes or preferences. Sure, I loved eating meat and dairy, and after 37 years of doing so, it seemed like it would be incredibly hard to stop. Yet, it wasn’t, because I fully believed that I was making the right choice for myself, my family, and the world. After the research we did, I felt that what was happening to animals was obscene, and that I couldn’t contribute to pain and suffering just because I enjoyed the way certain foods tasted. My kids expressed the same thought, especially in regards to meat, which is easier for them to directly and visually equate to animal suffering.
  • You can live in accordance with your values every day. Values are not theoretical and lofty; they don’t only influence you when it’s time to make decisions like which candidate to vote for. Multiple times a day, every time we eat (or purchase anything, because being vegan quickly led to only buying cruelty-free products), we are living in accordance with a value of being kind and empathic to other creatures.
  • Do not be scared of learning uncomfortable or painful facts. I wanted my kids to see why we were potentially going vegan, which involved watching animals suffering in documentaries. Rather than being terrified of traumatizing my kids, I take the view that you can’t and shouldn’t protect kids from knowing what cruelty is in the world. (I did tell them when they could close their eyes during particularly difficult-to-watch scenes if they wanted to, though.) There is no point to show kids violent scenes if it teaches them nothing. But sometimes you have to learn about cruelty or violence in order to understand the world and to have the information you need to inform your personal choices. I believe there is a critical window for developing empathy and a larger-than-yourself worldview and it is in childhood. My own experiences as a Jewish child learning and reading about the Holocaust likely helped me become more empathic, and I consider learning about animal suffering to be very similar.
  • It can be difficult to change your lifestyle, but it is possible. My kids were all old enough to see the tremendous change of eating meat for every single dinner (literally) to never eating it. Growing up, my parents were extremely resistant to change, being highly anxious people. This likely influenced my initial reaction to my daughter in the car. But now my kids are hopefully learning that there is no life change that it is impossible, particularly if you feel strongly that it is the right choice.
  • Fitting in is less important than living kindly and ethically. My children see me request vegan options at restaurants, and choose not to eat animal products served at social events. Although this makes it harder to blend in, it is important to me. The children tell their friends, classmates, and teachers that they are vegan and generally get positive responses, but we discuss the negative responses at home and discuss ways to navigate these interactions.
  • Be able to defend your beliefs. When my kids or I tell others that we are vegan, there are inevitably questions about why and how we eat this way. My children are able to simply and directly respond to these questions without proselytizing or being embarrassed. Hopefully, this will translate to being able to stay strong and express themselves in other areas and about other topics as well.
  • Also, in my particular case, changing the way we all ate in response to my daughter’s comment made her feel highly valued and respected. I don’t often change what the family does in response to individual preferences (with three kids, that would be chaos!), but if they feel something deeply and give me good reasons for a potential change, I will listen to them and take them seriously. Hopefully, this teaches them that they can have agency in their family, and the world in general.

Going vegan is a personal choice that is swiftly rising in popularity as more and more evidence comes to light about the ethical issues involved in consuming animal products. In addition to helping animals and the environment as a whole, I have found that veganism helps my children learn important lessons about the world and their place in it. Please reach out and share your thoughts and experiences as vegan parents or parents considering going vegan!

Today’s post is by guest writer Samantha Rodman, Ph.D.

Dr. Samantha Rodman is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland.  Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she attended Columbia University for her BA and University of Maryland for her PhD.  She now lives in Potomac with her three children.  Dr. Rodman writes at DrPsychMom.com, and you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What Going Vegan Taught My Children


Christine Jackson, LICSW

Christine Jackson has been a therapist for fifteen years and maintains a private practice in Washington, D.C. She has been an animal advocate for over four decades.


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APA Reference
Jackson, C. (2019). What Going Vegan Taught My Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/veganism/2019/12/what-going-vegan-taught-my-children/

 

Last updated: 17 Dec 2019
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