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Following Vegan Idols
I am the mother of a fifteen-year-old daughter who has suddenly decided to become vegan because the lead singer of one of her favorite rock bands is. While I applaud her decision and will support her all the way, I am afraid that her obvious crush on the lead singer will fade along with her new vegan lifestyle, or that she will find it too difficult to comply with not eating meat, dairy, eggs, and cheese. I suggested to her that she should take it slow, in little steps, and not cut out everything all at once. To help, we have bought and browsed through vegan cookbooks. If nothing else, I will probably end up vegan myself, but I really want my daughter to follow through on this one. Any advice?
It is refreshing and encouraging that you are so supportive of your daughter’s decision to become vegan, and that she has even inspired you to explore veganism for yourself. Although her motivation to become vegan may, on the surface, seem impulsive and superficial, it is possible that she has considered the profound underlying issues, as well as the ramifications of such a major, life-empowering choice. Have you asked her about this? Even if she has not taken any deeper concerns into account, teenagers go through countless “phases” and try on many hats until they find the ones that fit them comfortably. Exploring various lifestyles is how we learn about ourselves; it’s a natural part of maturation that can continue throughout our lives, if we’re lucky. Who we are today will not be who we are tomorrow, if we keep an open mind, heart, and intellect. And that’s a good thing, for both teenagers and adults.
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Even if your daughter were to become vegan now and abandon it later, what would be lost? There would certainly be no harm done, and more than likely, there would be many positive repercussions. Whether temporary or permanent, being vegan could be an adventure and a learning experience that could influence her in countless positive ways.
Although it is tempting and often wise for parents to advise teens to take things slowly in certain areas of life, when it comes to issues of ethics, morality, and health, why compromise? Young vegans are typically prompted by ethical principles and beliefs, and, like most teens, frequently see their values in terms of black and white, without any gray areas. Thus, they may interpret “going slowly” as being disingenuous or hypocritical.
From a practical standpoint, being vegan may seem difficult to parents. It entails unlearning many “facts” about nutrition that most of us take for granted are true, buying and preparing “unusual” foods, trying out new recipes (often with varying levels of success), coping with the reactions of other family members, and exploring new products, clothing, and shoes. It can be expensive, confusing, and overwhelming. For all of these reasons, it is important for you and your daughter to examine her rationale for becoming vegan (including her crush) and discuss all of the implications involved—not to dissuade her, but to bring any lofty ideals down to earth where you can both figure out how to put them into practice. Together you can prioritize what is most important and determine where to begin. You can share the joys of reading about vegan nutrition and meal planning and have fun checking out vegan products and retailers. It can be an opportunity to draw your daughter even closer to you. However, pushing her in one direction or the other could have the opposite effect and cause her to rebel.
I would encourage you both to read my book Raising Vegetarian Children, as it is appropriate for older teens as well as adults. You’ll find much support and many tips on sharing the vegan journey, whether or not you both become vegan or do so at the same time. You’ll also have access to valuable nutritional information for teenagers, meal plans, and recipes the whole family can appreciate. If your daughter has not done much cooking yet, this could be a great time to spark her interest and develop her self-sufficiency in this area, as well as relieve some of the burdens of the primary “cook and bottle washer.”
If your daughter doesn’t stick with being vegan, that’s okay. Her curiosity ignited your interest, and in turn, that may open doors to exciting ideas and improved health and nutrition for you and your family. So, regardless of whether your daughter’s crush or the rock band’s fame are fleeting, the impact of her vegan exploration will be constructive and long-lasting.
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