Raising vegan kids comes with plenty of questions. But what do you do when only one parent follows a plant-based diet? How to handle parents with different diets.
We don’t have to tell you that raising kids comes with many challenges. Add in the challenge of two parents who follow drastically different lifestyles – like one who is plant-based and one who is not – and that can be a whole new level of uncharted territory.
While this can be a tough situation to navigate, there’s no one right or wrong answer. Here are a few tips to help figure out what’s best for your family.
4 Tips for Raising Vegan Kids When Only One Parent is Vegan
1. Get on the same page first
One of the most confusing things for children, regardless of the subject matter, is receiving mixed messages from parents and caregivers. That’s why it’s so important to be on the same page about major aspects of your family’s lifestyle, including the type of diet pattern you follow – even if they are different within the same family.
This includes finding a way to be a united front without demonizing the parent who eats animal products.
Think about this similarly to any big issue that can cause division within families, like religious beliefs or political views. Demonstrating to your children how to live respectfully with differences is one of the biggest gifts you can give them.
2. Be transparent
Kids always catch on when things aren’t what they seem.
What we mean by that is, don’t try to hide things from your kids. If one parent eats animal products while the other doesn’t, this can be a topic of conversation rather than something kept secret.
For example, this may look like making your home an animal-free zone, but sharing with your kids that the omnivorous parent consumes animal products outside of the house or when they’re not around the children.
This inevitably means that kids will start asking questions, especially as they get older. The more honest you can be with your kids about tough topics like these, the stronger and more mutually respectful of a relationship you can cultivate together.
This teaches your children that they can always come to you with hard questions about sensitive topics and receive honesty in return.
3. Surround your family with like-minded people
If not everyone in your household eats an animal-free diet, it may be helpful to add other influences to their social circle.
Finding other plant-based families can help expand their perspectives about why people choose to adopt this lifestyle as well as normalize it.
After all, one of our most important jobs as parents is to give our kids the knowledge, tools, experiences, and confidence that they need to make the best choices for themselves as they grow up.
It also means that, as parents, we have to be okay with the possibility of our kids experimenting with or making different choices than us later in life.
4. Keep them involved
Inviting kids into more than just eating the food you make is key in helping them understand the plant-based lifestyle you choose to follow.
This can mean asking for their input about what should be on the menu for the upcoming week, taking them grocery shopping to help pick out items, and assigning them jobs in the kitchen for meal prep. This can also mean exposing them to experiences like visiting farm animal sanctuaries together.
The most important thing to remember about navigating this lifestyle is that there’s no one right answer for every family. How you choose to handle this dynamic may look different from how another family does, and that’s okay.
Figuring out what works best for you and your children is what matters the most.
Raising vegan kids will offer plenty of obstacles along the way. Don’t let having parents with different diets define the relationship you have with them. It’s most important to find what works best for your unique family, which prioritizes transparency and respect.
Chime In: Have you been in this situation before? What other advice do you have for families with parents who follow different diets?
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Dr Stella says
This is my family! Mom and two toddlers (2 and 4) are vegan and dad eats animals. Great advice, all of which we have put into play.. Most important has been maintaining open discussion about it all and letting the kids ask and see the different animal foods he might eat that we don’t. They know daddy eats cow and chicken, and we eat plants. They have never been upset they couldn’t have it, I think because it’s never been a mystery or something to covet- it’s just different. Positive tone and not demonizing is important though it’s a fine and at times hard line to skirt explaining why eating plants helps our bodies be strong while not saying eating animals is “bad.” Even if science directly says that…you definitely don’t want your toddler putting down someone else’s food. Thus far, we are doing well!
Thanks for this! My husband and I agreed on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for our daughter. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow, but I still serve her plenty of vegan meals. I also am upfront about what she’s eating, which has allowed her to voice that she doesn’t want to eat or try certain foods. Just as I chose to be vegan, she can make her own informed choices!
Thank you for this post and all your work here on PBJ! My partner and I are both vegan, and so are our kids for now anyway. But talking to them about how others eat animals can be challenging. This is a helpful guide!
My husband is a vegetarian and I am vegan, as is my just turned 3 year old. She sometimes wants daddy’s plate and I just say “Oh he is eating something different, sometimes we don’t eat the same things”. As she gets older I want to explain why some people eat some things and others don’t without shaming others. Do you have any books you can recommend? I just got That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals and I think it is a little advanced for my kiddo. It’s tough to navigate because saying oh we love animals we don’t eat them might mean “other people are mean to animals if they eat them!” in a toddler brain. Also she eats vegan cheese and milk and doesn’t realize they are not “real” cheese and milk so one day I need to explain that to her as well, it’s so hard at such a young age! Thanks!
I really love the books “We all love” and “prayer for the animals”– that one really isn’t religious at all, more in the vein of “may all beings be happy and free”