Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

Jo will make every attempt to answer each question personally, however, due to her schedule, this may not be possible. If a reply is forthcoming, it could take up to a few weeks, so please be patient. It is also possible that your question will be answered directly in the "Ask Jo!" column rather than an individual response.

If you'd like to view previous questions Jo has answered, visit the Ask Jo! Archives.

Teen Choices

question.gif - 1.4 K My question concerns my eleven-year-old daughter who has been vegan since birth. It's getting to be more and more of a challenge to raise her as a vegan; not that I'm giving up, but she recently "tested" me by saying: "Mom, I think I want to try chicken." I was washing the dishes and, without missing a beat, I turned off the water, dried my hands, and said "Okay, let's go and get some now." She jumped up from the table and said, "I didn't mean NOW; I meant when I'm about thirteen!" I resumed washing the dishes (although I must admit that I used one hand to pat myself on the back).

Realistically, I know that the day will come when she will experiment, probably not with meat because she can barely tolerate the texture of meat analogs, but possibly with dairy (my husband of twenty-two years is lacto-ovo). When that day comes, I don't want her to do this behind my back (I used to hide M&M's in my underwear drawer for fear my mom would find them). I feel that no matter what she experiments with, she will ultimately come back to veganism. In the meantime, what should I do?


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Virtually all parents long for their offspring to adopt their values, but, of course, there is never any guarantee. It is painful for parents to allow their children to make pivotal decisions because, despite our greatest hopes, we worry that they will make what we consider to be "poor" choices - those that go against our own convictions. Perhaps the toughest challenge of parenting is setting children free to become the individuals - and independent thinkers - they were meant to be. In order for young ones to mature, they must eventually make their own mistakes and come to their own conclusions.

The seeds of children's ethics are planted when they are very young. By the time they are adolescents, their basic value system is firmly rooted. By this age, they should have a clear understanding of behavior that is "right" and "wrong," acceptable or improper. In order for youngsters to embrace their parents' code of ethics and accept it as their own, they must be aware of and understand the reasoning behind it. Most children develop a powerful sense of loyalty to their parents' principles, but unless behavioral expectations include an appreciation for their moral underpinnings, there is a very real chance that children will abandon these ideals in the future.

During the teen years, it is common for children to rebel, but defiance and rejection of one's family values are less prevalent in homes where relationships include mutual respect, trust, and open communication. The stage for close interactions, however, must be set early on. If dialogue has never included acceptance and honesty, nurtured in an atmosphere of genuine affection, by the pre-teen years, the critical period for introducing these will have passed.

If you want your daughter to share her thoughts, interests, and concerns with you, create a safe, nonjudgmental environment in which she can do so. Allow her to open up without restriction or fear of your disapproval. If you establish a foundation of loving admiration toward your daughter, blended with a solid example and awareness of vegan practice and the ethical principles that guide it, she will be well equipped to make appropriate moral decisions imbued with responsibility and wisdom. She will also have the security of knowing that she can share her choices and feelings with you and still be loved and appreciated whether or not her lifestyle parallels yours.




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