Are vegan kids doomed to social isolation? With animal products served at school, parties and get-togethers, what’s a vegan kid to do to fit in? And how do parents help their children navigate social events without relegating them to the role of outsiders?
Being different isn’t easy, especially when you’re a kid. Growing up, most of us want to be accepted by our peers, have friends, and fit in. So what’s a vegan kid to do when animal products are served at most schools, parties, and get-togethers? And how do vegan parents navigate the delicate minefield of their children’s formative years without relegating them to the role of social outcasts? Let’s ask them, shall we? [tweet this]
Parents want what’s best for their children. But what happens when doing what they believe is best gives rise to additional challenges? Raising kids vegan remains a surprisingly controversial practice, from concerns about malnutrition to accusations of parents forcing their beliefs onto their children, which was addressed in the very first video of my vegan parenting series.
So before busting out any classics about brainwashing, be sure to check out that video linked here and below. Now that we’ve tackled the issue of making kids vegan by force, it’s time to take on the assertion that the dietary restrictions of vegan kids leaves them as social outcasts among their peers. [tweet this]
Today we’ll hear again from my parental dream team:
- Jesse from the Bronx in New York City, NY, father of Zachary, who’s 2 and 4-year-old Jesse Jace, whom you can meet in my vegan KIDS interview series
- Martin and Katie from London, England, parents of Sam, who’s 17, Jamie who’s 15, and 4-year-old JoJo, another KIDS interview series star
- Shantelle from Cambridge, MA, mother of 8-year-old Izzy, who lays down some serious wisdom in my KIDS interview series
- Raffaela, from Lisbon, Portugal, mother of 5-year-old Vasco
- Melissa from Anne Arbor, MI, mother of two young adults ages 21 & 18 and 4-year-old Reuben
- Ellen from Maui, Hawaii, mother of 1-year-old Sandy and 4-year-old Elvis, another show-stopper in my KIDS interview series
- Crystal and Eric from Virginia, parents of 14-year-old Jordan and 8-year-old Alejandro, both of whom feature in the KIDS interview series, as well as two young adults who are 19 & 21
- Theresa, mother of 10-year-old Amina and Kara, mother of 11-year-old Jude and 9-year-old Gala, with the whole lot them hailing from Brisbane Australia and appearing in my kid’s interview series
In today’s video you’ll hear everything from practical tips to re-framing and philosophy. [tweet this] Plus a special inside look at Elvis’ epic 3rd birthday vegan bash!
Without further ado, let’s hear from the parents:
Jesse (The Bronx, NYC):
“Well, for us, like maybe the first one or two times when we went to parties when he was young we didn’t know what to do, so it was a little bit hard. So what we’ve learned to do is we bring our own foods where we go. We pack his lunch with fruits, vegetables, maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
And a lot of our friends and family have almost–we’ve turned the tables on them where they’re not completely vegan but they’ll, like my family, they’ll cook vegan meals when we come over. At least have a certain plate or two vegan, and you know, we’ve rubbed off on a lot of people, so it hasn’t been that hard. If we go to a birthday party, we’ll bring him a little piece of vegan cake or something just so when they whip out the cake, we can have his piece ready or a cupcake, or something. It’s all about preparation. It’s not that difficult.”
Shantelle (Cambridge, MA):
“I’m like infamous for having something in my purse at all times. There’s always, you know, apples, or granola, or some type of vegan snack. We bring things everywhere we go and another thing I like to do is bring enough for other people to try. Because a lot of times, if you bring vegan cupcakes and people try them and say, “oh I really can’t even tell the difference.” It’ll open up that door for conversation and it can encourage others to try that lifestyle, too.
So, I always try to look at it as a challenge, but as a good challenge because it’s an opportunity to educate someone else and show people that this lifestyle–you know–we don’t miss anything in this lifestyle. We still have our cookies, we have snacks, we have cakes and ice cream. We have everything that everyone else has except we don’t have the guilt. [tweet this] So, you know, and they can have that, too.”
Kara & Theresa (Brisbane, Australia):
Kara: “With Jude and Gala it’s really easy because even when I go to a vegan event, they’ll walk in and they’ll say, “are you sure this is vegan?” And I’ll say, “of course it’s vegan, we’re at a vegan event.” But everyone says, “no, it’s good they asked.” But they’re terrified of eating milk or dairy or meat because they’re so against it.
So, I know that I don’t even have to be there, I know that they’re going to check everything out before they’ll eat it. But, if I thought there wasn’t going to be enough options, I just pack them something. I’ll make them some nice vegan cupcakes and some nice vegan desserts or treats and they’ll take those along. Which the other kids usually like.
Theresa: Yeah, we always bring our own food, and fortunately we have friends that are very accommodating and they prepare vegan food for us, which mainly is raw fruits and vegetables, which I love! But, just to be safe. And I have a few non-vegan friends that introduced me to vegan products that I didn’t know existed. But, yeah I try and make something really special like cupcakes or something mouth-watering. Usually the meat eaters eat it all and there’s nothing left for us, though.
Kara: It’s quite a good opportunity, actually, taking some really nice vegan treats to show people just how nice the food is that we eat, you know.
Theresa: It’s not just grass and lettuce.”
Raffaela (Lisbon, Portugal):
“It is not difficult at all because I always bring food with me for both of us. Like fruit and crackers and jam sandwiches, things like this. And whenever there is a special occasion, like a birthday party, I make sure that he has something that he really enjoys to eat like pretty cupcakes that I make, popcorn, chocolate cookies. He’s always happy.”
Martin (London, England):
“With my teens, at first it was a bit more difficult just because those were situations we hadn’t really thought about because normally they’d go out with their friends or stay over at a friend’s house, it’s something that they’re more than capable of just being there and dealing with.
So, we had to speak to parents and give them ideas of what food that they can get them if they were giving them dinner. And if they went to places with their friends we would find out menus of the restaurants, for example online, what options they could do. Sometimes call ahead. So, in situations like that you have to maybe come across and see what options are available and then deal with it.
For my youngest son–you always speak to the parents at parties and I always make him aware of what sort of food will be there. So if he goes to a party and they’re doing a birthday cake, he knows what ingredients are in there and he doesn’t want it because of that. He knows straight up and, more than that, he knows that there are vegan options available. That if he did want a cake later in the day we could go home and make him one. And a better one, as well.”
Eric & Crystal (Virginia):
Crystal: “I feed them first. I make sure they’re full. And then, I pack them food. And then, when they go to parties I ask the host if there’s anything I can bring. Like, if they have cakes and cupcakes, I will make my own vegan cupcakes and have them bring it so they can eat with the rest of the kids.
Eric: At my sister’s wedding we just let her know that. So, they know, so part of their planning process is what are we going to eat, you know. They’re pretty accommodating.
Crystal: Fruits and vegetables are not a hassle. You don’t even have to cook it, just slice it up, wash it, we can eat it all day. So, that’s what we do, especially with AJ. I just pack him some snacks and lunch and make sure he’s fed. He doesn’t complain.”
Ellen (Maui, Hawaii): [be sure to check out the video to see Elvis’ birthday party!]
“My impression is that just because something is the norm–like socially acceptable–doesn’t mean it should be. I think a lot of moms and dads deep down don’t really want their kids eating a bunch of junk but just because, when they go to a party they don’t want to “deprive” their kids of the foods that all the other kids are eating.
You see how everybody’s having a great time [she’s narrating while filming the party] and nobody feels like they’re missing out because certain foods aren’t there. The kids just love the food. You can make so much delicious raw food or even cooked vegan foods, whole foods. Make it from scratch, it takes more time but it’s made of love.
So if we start deciding to serve parties, serve food at our own parties that we have, with healthy, delicious food, it can become the norm. We are the first ones that can create change. We have to be the ones, if we want the world to change in any way, if we want it to be normal for our kids to eat delicious, healthy food, we have to be the ones to start it.”
I hope you enjoyed hearing from all of the parents! From what I gather, if in doubt, bring vegan cupcakes. Perhaps even if not in doubt… just bring cupcakes.
Be sure to check out the links below to the parents’ social media accounts so you can follow each family’s journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts on raising kids vegan in the comments below! And stay tuned for more to come in the vegan parenting series.
If you liked this social experiment, do give the video a thumbs up and share it around to help other families. If you’re new here, I’d love to have you as a subscriber. I put out fresh content covering all aspects of veganism every Monday, Wednesday and some Fridays.
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Now go live vegan, bring vegan cupcakes, and I’ll see you soon.
— Emily Moran Barwick
Chandler Klebs says
I wasn’t vegan as a kid nor did I know anything about it, but I was a social outcast for other reasons. However these parents were able to make it easy on their kids by preparing vegan snacks before these events so that their kids always had something to eat and even share! It’s really not that hard.
sally anne hubbard says
So wonderful that parents are raising their children vegan so they will be compassionate and healthy.
At the same time they will be educating others about veganism. I felt like an outcast once but now I say I am vegan proudly.
It’s very easy to prepare for situations that you know in advance are occurring. When a child is going to a party you generally know quite a bit ahead of time. So you can prepare alternatives.
However, surely the issues come when the child wants to go to a friend’s house after school, or stay round a friend’s that day, and you haven’t had the chance to pre-prepare their food, or aren’t accompanying them (bit weird when they’re not really young).
How do you then ensure that the child still sticks to a vegan diet without making them the kid that parents don’t want to invite round their house because it’s more difficult?
My girlfriend who is vegan, and myself (who 90% of what I eat is vegan), are currently having this discussion, and my biggest worry is in impacting the child socially. Dietary wise I don’t see an issue, in fact there are a lot of benefits. However the social impact seems a lot less well researched.