Raising A Vegan Family: Solutions to common vegan parenting social challenges

Raising a family comes with great joys and great challenges, and doing things differently from the majority can both add to these joys and challenges. Vegan parenting is rewarding on so many levels, but it can also bring about social challenges that non-vegan families do not have to face or consider on a regular basis. Also, it brings about certain personal beliefs and preferences that other family members and friends may not understand.

Vegan lunch

When my husband and I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle, it was a natural decision that our children would be raised the same way. For our family, vegan parenting goes way beyond what is on our plate at mealtime. It is both a healthy lifestyle choice and an ethical choice for us. As a family, we do not eat animals or participate in their exploitation, which means no trips to the zoo or aquarium, no dying chicken eggs for spring time holidays, and definitely no turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving. This works for us, and we feel better for the choices we are making for our family, but being the only vegan on the block or on the family tree can feel limiting at times. Here are some alternatives and solutions that have worked for our family.

Entertainment
I remember going to the zoo as a child and feeling depressed instead of happy. All of the animals looked so miserable to me, and many looked sick. Other family centered places that profit from the exploitation of animals, like aquariums, petting zoos, and circuses, also elicit the same feeling of hopelessness and despair. So, we will not be taking family trips to the zoo, or dairy farms, or aquariums. We will not be taking pony rides at the county fair or going to petting zoos. Making this choice for our family means that we will miss out on outings with friends and family that do not feel the same way that we do. If your children are school aged, this may also mean that they will be missing school trips that do not align with your family’s ethical beliefs. For children, this is not always easy to accept when they see their other friends and relatives participating in activities. What you can do is provide your children with activities and outings that introduce them to animals in their natural environment or in sanctuaries. You can invite family and friends along with you, and suggest alternatives to your child’s school.

As a family, we visit our local farm sanctuaries, go to ponds and lakes in our area to see ducks, fish, frogs, and turtles, smell the roses at our local arboretums, attend local vegan festivals, and take hikes at our local parks to admire the wildlife in their natural habitat. You can also go to local children’s museums that have hands on exhibits that your children can participate in.

Children’s Birthday Parties
Due to food allergies and other dietary restrictions, the days of bringing in cupcakes to your child’s classroom is a tradition that is obsolete in most schools. But, this does not mean your child will not be invited to many birthday parties for both family and friends. The typical birthday party will consist of pizza, birthday cake, hotdogs, cheese flavored chips, and other unhealthy non-vegan foods. If you are fortunate enough to have a large circle of vegan family and friends, you may not run into many issues with children’s birthday parties, but if you are like many vegan families, this issue will present itself more and more as your children grow older. The first thing to do is speak to the parent who is throwing the birthday party and let them know about your child’s dietary restrictions. Next, find out what is on the menu and offer to bring the same, or similar item for your child in the vegan version. Some parents may not appreciate this, or may not be accommodating for your child, and in these cases you may need to make the choice to not send your child to the event. In most cases though, parents will be open to this, especially since you are offering to do all the work to ensure your child is well fed and included in the activities. This may mean bringing a vegan pizza, vegan hotdog or veggie burger, a slice of cake, or even a tray of cookies or cupcakes to share with everyone.

When it comes to events in our own home, we only serve vegan food, but try to consider the different preferences, allergies, and tastes of our guests. This usually means keeping things very simple. Our daughter’s second birthday is approaching, and on the menu is pasta salad with tomatoes and cucumbers, orzo salad with vegan pesto and cherry tomatoes, sandwich wraps with roasted veggies, vegan hotdogs for the children, fruit trays, vegetable trays with hummus, and my daughters favorite lemon cookies and cupcakes. The best part about hosting events in our home, aside from knowing we can eat everything there, is hearing our friends and family rave about the food we serve. We love that we can offer so many healthy options and introduce people, who often wonder what we eat, to the many delicious vegan food options that are out there.

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