Unsure how to talk to kids about veganism? Learn how to teach children about veganism with this comprehensive guide. How can you be truthful without being traumatizing? How can you convey complex concepts in an age-appropriate way? Get guidance on explaining veganism to kids!
Table Of Contents
- A Quick Note on the Concern of "Forcing" Veganism
- Assess the Situation and Context When Talking to Kids About Veganism
- Tailor Your Approach to the Child
- Be Age-Appropriate Without Sugarcoating
- Use Visuals, Stories, and Interaction When Teaching Kids About Veganism
- Focus on the (Many) Positives of Veganism & Provide Actions They Can Take
- Children Have Less to Un-learn
- In Closing
Talking to anyone about veganism can be a daunting proposition. When it comes to talking to kids about veganism, things get even more complicated. How do you make sure to be truthful without being traumatizing? How can you convey complex concepts in an age-appropriate way? Well, let’s talk about…how to talk to kids about veganism. tweet this
Before we dive in, I wanted to let you know that I have content about veganism made just for kids that can do a lot of the talking for you! Be sure to check out my Vegan Videos for Kids series, which covers everything from dairy, eggs, meat, wool and honey, to the environmental impact of animal products. I also interview real vegan kids!
I wanted to note that any discussion about veganism and children usually elicits concern about forcing one’s beliefs upon a child. Fortunately, I have a video covering that exact topic in my Vegan Parenting Series. That series also covers topics like whether vegan kids are prone to struggle socially, whether we’re born vegan, and nutritional concerns.
Whenever you’re talking to someone about veganism, it’s important to assess the situation and context of your conversation. When talking to children about veganism, this is even more vital. Were you asked an off-hand question? Or is this a sit-down one-on-one? Or are you perhaps in a classroom setting?
Perhaps the most important point of context is whether you’re speaking with your own child(ren) or someone else’s. Obviously, you need to be respectful of the boundaries and wishes of a child’s parent(s) or caregiver(s).
If you’ve found yourself in a situation where someone else’s child has asked you a question about why you don’t eat animals, be mindful not to disparage non-vegans in your response. Focus instead on your reasons for being vegan. You don’t want the child to feel they or their caregiver(s) are bad. This is actually a productive approach across the board for non-vegans of any age.
It’s impossible to give a blanket instruction on how to talk to kids about veganism. Every child is an individual, with their own personality, temperament, sensitivities, maturity level, and learning styles. What may be entirely appropriate and effective for one kid may not be for another.
I, for example, have always said that I came out of the womb as a 35-year-old. I was a very serious child and almost too aware of the realities of the world from very early on. As such, I appreciated the rare times when adults were straightforward with me. But the level of harsh reality I was able to take in was not always appropriate for other kids my age. It’s always best to tailor your approach to the child you’re speaking with.
That said, there are some general guidelines that are helpful when speaking with very young children. Kids are incredibly intelligent and very often underestimated or even dismissed by us adults. When I was a kid, I vowed to never forget what it was like being discounted.
This doesn’t mean that my educational content for children is identical to the content I create with an adult demographic in mind. There is a very vital difference between sugarcoating and delivering a message suitable to one’s intended audience.
You can respect a child’s right to the truth without traumatizing them with an approach inappropriate for their age or temperament. In every one of my videos for kids about veganism, I say upfront that I promise to tell them the truth, no matter what. I also assure them that I will not show them anything scary. Given I cannot know the exact age of the children watching my content, I err on the side of the youngest viewers.
The environmental, societal and health-based reasons for veganism are less of a concern when it comes to age-appropriateness. When teaching very young children about the ethical basis for veganism, and our treatment of animals, you can tell them the truth in a way they can understand and process by speaking in relatable terms.
For example, in my video for kids about milk, I explain how mother cows produce milk for their babies, just like humans do. But because humans want to drink the mother cows’ milk, her baby is taken away and put into tiny cages where they can’t even turn around. I tell them how mother cows cry for days for their babies because they miss them so much, just like their parents would miss them.
While this is a very heavy and unpleasant topic, I remind them that I promised to tell them the truth. Most importantly, I am sure to end every video with the good news that all this suffering can be avoided by choosing not to consume animal products.
Children respond to visual stimuli, and will be more engaged with stories and interactive experiences than lectures. If you watch my videos for kids, you’ll notice I have a lot of visual animation throughout. Another great tool is the growing number of vegan-themed children’s books, which provide characters and stories kids can engage with while learning about veganism.
One of the most powerful ways for kids to connect with the ethical aspects of veganism is to visit a farmed animal sanctuary, where they can come face to face with the individual animals. This is also a fantastic alternative to exploitative animal entertainment industries like circuses, zoos, and aquariums.
Focusing on the many positives of veganism is key when speaking with children. The realities of our treatment of animals and the impact it has on the environment, our health, society, and—most disturbingly—the animals themselves, is a lot for anyone to take on, much less a child. So while it’s important to explain these realities in an age-appropriate manner, it’s at the same time vital to emphasize the power of veganism.
Children are empowered when given actions they can take to make a difference. For example, by drinking plant milk instead of cows’ milk, they can help mother and baby cows stay together. Or that by not eating meat, they can save animals’ lives and help alleviate world hunger. This shifts the focus from the problems to solutions in which they can participate.
In my video for kids focusing on the environmental and societal impact of the animal products industries, I frame the entire discussion as how they can save the planet with the actions they take and the choices they make.
I explain the environmental devastation of animal products, and how we divert so much of our crops to animals raised for food that we could be feeding to hungry people. While I emphasize that it’s us adults who have gotten the world into this state, I focus on the power kids have to be a superhero to the planet, the animals, and their fellow humans.
It’s also important to provide alternatives to foods and activities that children have developed an affinity for. Going vegan is often viewed as giving things up. Be sure to emphasize all the vegan options available. As I mentioned earlier, this applies to far more than food: in my video for kids about zoos, I offer alternatives that aren’t harmful to animals, like visiting farmed animal sanctuaries.
I find children are often far more receptive to the underlying concepts of veganism than most adults. In many ways, educating adults about veganism is really just trying to help people reconnect with the fundamental truth that we all knew as children: that it’s not okay to hurt others.
After all, we have to be taught as children to disassociate the animals we adore from the flesh and secretions on our plates. We watch Finding Nemo, then are fed fish sticks. We love Babe the pig, then are fed bacon. This is a learned disconnect that we continue to develop as adults, adopting justifications and rationalizations for our discordant choices.
Studies into speciesism—meaning the valuing of one’s own species over all others—have shown that young children “appraise the lives of animals and humans similarly when asked to judge the act of killing…signaling that speciesism is a socially-transmitted idea that may not surface until relatively late in development.”1
A study into children’s ability to identify the origins of their food showed a significant lack of awareness, especially when it came to animal products. Thirty-six to forty-one percent of the children thought that “hamburgers, hot dogs, and bacon come from plants.”2
When asked what was OK and not OK to eat, the vast majority of younger children in the study designated cows, pigs, and chickens as not OK to eat.
Talking to kids about the ethical aspects of veganism isn’t about convincing them of anything. It’s simply providing them with well-deserved truth so that they may act in accordance with their existing values.
I hope that this video and article have provided some helpful guidance in educating kids about veganism. Be sure to check out my Vegan Videos for Kids series to do the talking for you! To stay in the loop about new Bite Size Vegan content and updates, please sign up for the newsletter or follow the Telegram channel for the most reliable notifications. To support educational content like this, please consider making a donation. Now go live vegan, and I’ll see you soon.
— Emily Moran Barwick
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