Vegetarian kid with one meat eating parent issue - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 06-22-2012, 04:42 PM
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Hi, I'm new to the boards and have one question I've been really pondering over for about a year. 

 

My son was raised vegetarian. When he was born both his dad and I were vegetarian.

 

At one point during his childhood, he's 11 now, he ate some chicken and some fish, but not any other meat (for about a year). In any case, about a year or two ago his dad (we're not together) went back to eating all kinds of meat - he ate meat as a kid, went veggie in his 20s. 

 

Now, I know that meat is being served sometimes over at my son's dad's house (red meat and even pork!). Telling the dad to not cook meat is non-optional. Of course I've talked to my son about why we're not eating meat at this house, but, if you were in this situation, would you tell your kid not to eat meat over at his dad's or leave it up to him?

 

I guess I'm partially wondering, how old do you think is the age where kids can make their own decisions about this sort of thing? It's tough with a split household. 


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#2 Old 06-22-2012, 05:06 PM
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At 11, I don't really think you can tell him not to, you can only tell him what you'd prefer.  But his dad probably may have a preference for him to eat meat.  In that case it might feel to your son that he's choosing between his parents, which isn't really fair to him.

 

I think at this age and in this situation you would have to make it clear to him why being veg is a good choice, try to instill whatever values you have in him, let him know your preferences, and then let him decide.

 

Because my focus is on animals, I would let him know how animals are treated in farming (as graphic as appropriate for him), and try to instill some respect for animals by visiting sanctuaries and such (there are some in your area). 


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#3 Old 06-22-2012, 05:08 PM
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Hi Jennifer C. What a conundrum! smiley.gif At eleven, I think your son has pretty strong opinions already. My son was around nine when he decided to go vegetarian, and we honored his decision. And ended up vegans ourselves smiley.gif.

The thing is, I think that 11 is probably one of the more difficult ages for this kind of situation. He will probably want to identify with his dad, the male role model, and he is probably hungry all the time due to upcoming puberty. Hunger always makes it hard to make decisions to not put food in your mouth. In addition, our society relates meat with manliness for some crazy reason.

So. I guess if it were my kid, I'd have a major heart to heart talk. I would leave the decision up to him, but I would do everything I could to educate him so he would have reason to stay veg. Have you discussed any AR stuff with him? Has he seen Meat Your Meat or other videos? Environmental effects of meat eating as well as animal cruelty can be meaningful enough reasons to help him stay the course.

I would make sure that my son knew he could tell me the truth about his eating habits at his father's so he didn't need to sneak.

Good luck.smiley.gif
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#4 Old 06-22-2012, 05:35 PM
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At 11, I don't really think you can tell him not to, you can only tell him what you'd prefer.  But his dad probably may have a preference for him to eat meat.  In that case it might feel to your son that he's choosing between his parents, which isn't really fair to him.

I think at this age and in this situation you would have to make it clear to him why being veg is a good choice, try to instill whatever values you have in him, let him know your preferences, and then let him decide.

Because my focus is on animals, I would let him know how animals are treated in farming (as graphic as appropriate for him), and try to instill some respect for animals by visiting sanctuaries and such (there are some in your area). 

I agree with this.
It's definitely a tricky situation, but you just have to let him know the reasons for your lifestyle.

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#5 Old 06-22-2012, 07:54 PM
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I'd be concerned about putting your child in a situation where he is in the middle of a disagreement between you and your ex. My focus in a similar situation was to let him know I understand if he eats meat at his Dad's. However, I like to persuade by example, so cooked his favourite foods veggie style, which is much tastier, so he did prefer this & sometimes sent some over with him to share at his Dad's house. I also ensured he thanked his Dad's wife for cooking for him.

 

We are parents, we plant the seeds. Vegetarians who do not pressure draw people towards non-cruelty meals. Then those people feel more free to ask questions. Politely answered, invites more. Role modelling this helps. Making the most scrumptious dishes to share with your child's friends at get togethers at your place can create an influence too.

We want our children to learn to think, so they can be like the vegetarian Einstein "I think, therefore I am.........vegetarian" carrot.gif

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#6 Old 06-22-2012, 08:13 PM
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My sister and I grew up vegetarian with my mom who was vegetarian (now my mom and I are vegan, btw). But my dad ate animals. Having a dad who ate animals never made me want to change my own eating habits. There was never a point that I remember where my mom said "now I give you a choice to go back to eating animals like you did before your dad and I broke up." But I always knew that it was my choice to eat how I wanted to eat. I knew that since I was six, which is when I decided to go vegetarian. My sister, likewise, never felt compelled to go back over to 'the dark side' even though she never chose to go veg in the beginning. We're still all veg-heads.

 

My nephew (my sister's son) is vegetarian. His dad is not. He was actually raised omni and then decided to go vegetarian on his own when he was 8. He's almost 13 now and even though he's been pressured by his dad to go back to eating animals, it doesn't look like he will. He asks us a lot of questions and sometimes pushes my vegan buttons (eg "what if plants feel pain?" "won't cows take over the planet if we all went vegetarian?" etc) and so I answer honestly and I take him to visit farmed animal sanctuaries so he can meet the animals and learn their stories. I don't think he's ever seriously considering eating animals. And if he does, well, that's his decision. And he knows it. No one needs to tell him.

 

I tell these stories because I don't think there's some magical age where children are suddenly capable of making their own ethical food choices. I think smart children know they can make their own choices any time they want. If they're determined, they'll find a way. Eventually. And the other kids figure it out too. Eventually. I don't think it requires a sit-down discussion or anything like that. Maybe if he were being raised in a commune and didn't have exposure to nonveg*ns then he would need to be told that he has a choice, but in mainstream society he's well aware that being vegetarian is an individual or family choice. And if he wants to eat animals then he will figure out a way to do that. But more importantly, he does need some strategies for how to deal with not wanting to eat animals while being a child in the control of an omni who may not respect his wishes. That could use a sit-down discussion (eg "Hey, if you're at your dad's and he makes pork and you don't want to eat it then here are some options... OK?")

 

So just keep reminding your kiddo of why your family eats veg and make sure the food is tasty and make sure that he has good veg role models and chances are he'll stay veg despite whatever pressure dad puts on him.

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#7 Old 06-22-2012, 09:40 PM
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Have you discussed any AR stuff with him? Has he seen Meat Your Meat or other videos?

 

I think that's an issue though.  I understand the OP is veg more for health and environmental reasons.  To me, that's a hard sell, particularly for a child.  Even for me.  I eat things that aren't healthy, and don't feel bad about it; and I drive a car and accept that's a vague harm to the environment.  One can eat a small amount of meat and still be committed to those causes without much contradiction.  But I won't be responsible for the direct suffering and death of animals if I have any choice.  Even a small amount of meat is unquestionably in contradiction to the commitment to animal rights and decreasing animal cruelty.  Most kids who choose to go veg aren't doing it primarily for health or the environment, they're doing it for animals.

 

OP, I would recommend looking at these, because I think that for whatever reason you are veg, you will have more success with your child with this reason:

http://www.meetyourmeat.com

http://www.earthlings.com (you can stream the video for free on this site)

http://www.whyvegan.com


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#8 Old 06-23-2012, 11:21 AM
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I agree that you should instill the values of vegetarianism, but not force them on him. Hopefully, he will have vegetarian inclinations already, just by being raised one. I agree with the above, but just want to also say that you should make sure he understands that you'll love him even if he does eat meat. You don't want this to turn into an issue where e has to choose between mom or dad. Give him reasons to not eat meat, but have none of them be about your love for him.

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#9 Old 06-23-2012, 02:33 PM
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I'm a little unclear what would happen if your son told his dad he would not eat meat.

Does that mean dad would have to cook another, separate meal for your son? Or let your son go hungry? Or what?

I don't know that there is any pat answer to your question.

Not sure about what dad's motivations are, either.
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#10 Old 06-23-2012, 02:47 PM
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Thanks for the replies. My biggest concern is NOT making him feel caught in the middle of some weird disagreement between his dad and me - my basic rule is you shouldn't talk smack about the other parent to the kids. It's not fair or nice to play games like that. Luckily Cedar's dad and I pretty much get along, but do disagree about meat and organics (he doesn't think organic food is worth it and usually buys conventional, which makes me nuts). 
 
I like the ideas about visiting sanctuaries. A friend I have said, "Take him to a slaughterhouse" but honestly, that idea freaked me out. I wouldn't want to go to one myself and while I get the point it might make (sort of) I felt like it was a really negative solution. Visiting a place that protects animals though would be the reverse - the positive side of animal care which seems like it would grow compassion without being horrifying. 
 
He has some animal rights coloring book I got from PETA at a conference along with some green kid books that discuss the environmental impacts of meat, and he seems receptive to discuss and think about those issues, but I think the video ideas suggested by Irizary might make more of an impact. We don't watch much TV (no cable, plus I'm trying to cut back on screen time at my house) so it's the last thing I think of when it comes to education. However, Irizary's suggestion reminded me that but we do watch movies and some have made a huge impact on him. Like he's really good about reusable water bottles since we watched FLOW and he's big on clean soil since we saw Dirt the Movie. 
 
I will check those movie links out for sure. 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

Maybe if he were being raised in a commune and didn't have exposure to nonveg*ns then he would need to be told that he has a choice, but in mainstream society he's well aware that being vegetarian is an individual or family choice. And if he wants to eat animals then he will figure out a way to do that. But more importantly, he does need some strategies for how to deal with not wanting to eat animals while being a child in the control of an omni who may not respect his wishes. That could use a sit-down discussion (eg "Hey, if you're at your dad's and he makes pork and you don't want to eat it then here are some options... OK?")

 

The above is really helpful. I think he's somewhat confused because he's eaten veggie dogs and garden burgers at my house, which I told him were not real meat, then when other people (like his dad or friends) have the same kind of food, but real meat, Cedar thinks it's all not really meat. It appears he can't tell the difference between real and not real, so this has been a big topic lately. Plus, he's mentioned not wanting to eat "pig hot dogs" at someone's house, but also not wanting to be rude. When he was younger, I made a point of telling everyone for him that he didn't eat meat, but I guess I assumed that as he got older he'd do it himself. ElaineV's comment made me think that maybe he's independent sure, but does still need help figuring out how to say no (nicely) if he doesn't want a type of food. I hate to think he'd eat just to be polite, but he's a stickler for rules so he might eat meat if he thought it was some sort of house rule.

 

He's camping right now, but when he comes home I think I'll work some of the above suggestions into our daily conversations. Luckily, he's used to food talk (we discuss organics vs. conventional, proper serving sizes and other food issues all the time). This specific food issue is just harder, because I feel like it's difficult to say, "I disagree with your dad's food choices" without making his dad look like the bad guy here AND without making Cedar feel bad should he decide to eat meat by choice.  


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#11 Old 06-23-2012, 03:10 PM
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I'm a little unclear what would happen if your son told his dad he would not eat meat.
Does that mean dad would have to cook another, separate meal for your son? Or let your son go hungry? Or what?
I don't know that there is any pat answer to your question.
Not sure about what dad's motivations are, either.

Cedar's dad would (luckily) be 100% okay if Cedar said he didn't want meat. For one thing, his dad was a vegetarian for years. Secondly, we've raised Cedar with food freedom - i.e. if he wants a bell pepper and frozen peas for breakfast (yes, he asks for this - he's an odd duck) vs. cereal we're fine with that. Or if he wants some chocolate whenever, he can have it. We believe in letting Cedar choose his food based on his hunger and own likes.

 

However, we also don't cook two meals. Like one kid meal and one adult meal. If Cedar hates what we make fine, but he has to be at the table and hang out, then if he's hungry later, it's his job to make himself some food after dinner. 

 

What happens at my son's dad's house is his dad cooks a meal - say, meat, veggies and a roll and places it in front of Cedar. I think Cedar often doesn't think about dinner in terms of what's on his plate, just that he's hungry, and here it is, so eat - know what I mean? If Cedar really said, "Hey I don't want to eat meat" I know that his dad would sub in something else, but Cedar is easy-going and thus, I imagine, just eating what's handed to him. 

 

Also, what is going on at his dad's house is suddenly dad is saying that, "Growing kids need protein" which to him is meat now. I told him, well, I make tofu and beans and other protein for Cedar, but for some reason dad's on a meat kick. He's not unreasonable, as in he'd force Cedar to eat meat, but it's just sooooooo weird to me that a prior vegetarian would be so adamant that protein is best in meat form, when he didn't eat meat for so long himself. I don't know if he read some book that had that mindset or what...

 

He's a good dad, but this whole new meat issue just isn't how we've always raised Cedar, so it's complex, odd and thus difficult to sort out. 


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#12 Old 06-23-2012, 03:13 PM
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Cedar's dad would (luckily) be 100% okay if Cedar said he didn't want meat. 

 

I'm going to rephrase this. After I posted it, I realized that maybe he would not be 100% okay with it due to his new protein kick. I need to ask him. I HOPE he's okay with it. I think so, but... Hmmmm.


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#13 Old 06-28-2012, 10:42 AM
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By cracking down on him your just going to turn him into one of those bitter ex vegans. Honestly you'll have a better chance of him drifting back if you simply make it optional, just based on how I am
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#14 Old 06-29-2012, 01:34 PM
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By cracking down on him your just going to turn him into one of those bitter ex vegans. Honestly you'll have a better chance of him drifting back if you simply make it optional, just based on how I am

Yeah, with this guy (my ex, not my son), I suspect you're right. He can dwell. It's really weird too because it's not like my son's dad didn't eat meat for years. I think he was veg for about 8 years. His, "You need meat for health" kick is confusing. I suppose I'll be fine with whatever happens, but at my house at least, my son will need to be okay with not eating meat (which so far he is - it hasn't come up anyhow) because no way am I doing the whole cooking two meals deal.

 

Also, from a purely keeping myself in check issue, I don't like having meat around. I don't crave red meat, pork or poultry (or want it), but if fish is around my brain starts saying, "You should go back to it..." which actually happened a few years ago. Because I'm currently veg, It's better I avoid it entirely, which means not having it in the house. So, if say, my son wanted fish around, I wouldn't like that and I guess I'd have to explain my side. 

 

If I had to guess, my son would come down on the vegetarian side of things, but the meat at dad's house just feels like it could confuse things. 


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#15 Old 06-29-2012, 02:11 PM
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What does Cedar think about it all?
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#16 Old 06-29-2012, 04:46 PM
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What does Cedar think about it all?

Cedar gives some thought to food, but being an 11 year-old and on top of that a kid who doesn't like messing around in the kitchen, it's not something he ponders over too much. 

 

  • He's way into organics and healthy eating (likely because I'm OCD about these topics). He'll seek out organic versions of food on his own and can give a pretty good speech to someone about why organics are good, why excess calories and toppings are bad, etc. 
  • He's more into not eating meat for animal rights reasons than I am. He had, as I mentioned some coloring books about where meat comes from, and after that he drew some really strong conclusions about not wanting to eat animals. 
  • BUT he likes veggie meat (veggie dogs, garden burgers, etc) and he has issues telling the difference between fake and real versions. 

 

As for including meat in his diet, I'm not sure where he totally stands. He visited his grandma for a few weeks (meat eater) and asked her to buy him veggie meat instead. He never complains about the meals at my house (veggie). But he also never complains about meals at dad's. He does complain about how his friends parents all serve meat. He's also not a big talker (more quiet) so he may be thinking about this in his head. 

 

In about two hours, we're headed up to a skatepark event / music concert that's about an hour away, so I figured it might give us some time to chat about this stuff. 


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#17 Old 06-29-2012, 05:09 PM
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I'd let it lie, he's evolving into the age where he'll soon become very aware and conscious about a lot of things and want to make his own choices. Don't press it with the ex, or it might become an issue he'll actually press with your son and there's no knowing which direction Cedar would flip in a pressured situation.

 

I suspect Cedar is intuitive enough to understand that it's no meat at Mum's and it's meat at Dad's family. However, ultimately if he's going to be a veggie adult, he needs to do it because he believes it's the right way for him, not just because that was the way his Mum fed him while he was growing up. As such, maybe having some differences in his upbringing while living between two households with differing stances on diet, will provoke questions for him that you can answer, or open points of discussion for you with him?

 

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#18 Old 06-30-2012, 02:35 PM
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If there's any way that you can find other veg families with children around the same age, I think that could have a big positive impact on your son. His age is an especially difficult age when it comes to peer pressure so if he has his dad pushing meat on him along with the standard society image that "men eat meat" but he hasn't got any other veg friends his age then it's going to be more difficult for him to stick to his guns and stay veg even if he really believes in it. And if he does stick with vegetarianism then he might develop some seriously negative feelings about his dad and all other omnis. The peer pressure during the pre-teen age is pretty tough. But a couple veg friends could really turn the tide. There are vegetarian and vegan groups on meetup.com and many of them offer family events. You might want to check it out. There are also veg summer camps for kids and teens where they can make friends. I've talked to some veg parents who even consider moving to veg-friendly cities like Portland just to avoid the negative peer pressure their children experience.

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#19 Old 06-30-2012, 07:49 PM
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If there's any way that you can find other veg families with children around the same age, I think that could have a big positive impact on your son. His age is an especially difficult age when it comes to peer pressure so if he has his dad pushing meat on him along with the standard society image that "men eat meat" but he hasn't got any other veg friends his age then it's going to be more difficult for him to stick to his guns and stay veg even if he really believes in it. And if he does stick with vegetarianism then he might develop some seriously negative feelings about his dad and all other omnis. The peer pressure during the pre-teen age is pretty tough. But a couple veg friends could really turn the tide. There are vegetarian and vegan groups on meetup.com and many of them offer family events. You might want to check it out. There are also veg summer camps for kids and teens where they can make friends. I've talked to some veg parents who even consider moving to veg-friendly cities like Portland just to avoid the negative peer pressure their children experience.

Living in PDX, we really don't get peer pressure (I don't think) about not eating meat. My son's dad's family is all in the Midwest and many are meat farmers, and when we've gone there for visits we get a ton of peer pressure. TONS. Plus, although it's gotten better, it used to be very hard to even find a place with veggie burgers or something veg on the menu. We're lucky to live here. 

 

I had a little discussion with Cedar about meat, but I actually have to go make dinner right now, so I'll have to post that later.  


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#20 Old 07-03-2012, 10:03 AM
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So.... I talked to Cedar. We had a short talk in the car (as I mentioned) but he wasn't interested in chatting much, so that went nowhere. 

 

Then it came up naturally due to a weird turn of events at my house this week. My partner eats meat (poultry and fish). His two daughters, who live with us sometime, but live with their mom more are SUPER into meat and junk food. Their mom gives them a lot of fast food, chips, large food portions, etc and the kids, the whole time I've known them have been extremely obsessed with meat and junk, as in, "Everything tastes better with bacon or dipped in sugar" obsessed. 

 

I've been trying to encourage these kids to eat better the entire time I've known them, but when kids have parents who are ok with junk and meat, this isn't easy. THEN out of the total blue, two weeks ago, the eldest daughter announced, "I'm going vegetarian." Awesome right!? So, a nice side-effect of this is that one, the meat issue came on full force with my partner and me trying to help oldest daughter figure out what to eat if she can't eat meat and two, everyone at the house (including partner and younger daughter) have all been eating veggie all week to support her. 

 

Long story short, the meat eating topic came up naturally this week with my son. But, not all was great. I told Cedar I knew that his dad had been serving meat, and I was wondering if he liked it, or if he didn't want to eat it, and just his general thoughts on eating vs. not eating meat. He said....

 

  • "We don't need to eat meat here. I don't need it and you don't need to have it here at our house."
  • "Sometimes at dad's I eat some meat - it's okay."
  • "I don't think real hot dogs are ok - just turkey dogs and veggie dogs - because pork is bad."
  • "I ate a ham sandwich" - to which I said, "Did you like it?" to which he said, "A little... Ponyo really does... ham is cool!" To which I said, "Well, you know ham is pork right, like those hot dogs." To which he said, "Hmmm, didn't know that."

 

Seriously, "Ponyo?" thank you Disney... :( 

 

Sometimes I cannot believe how impressionable kids are. That was the last place I expected that conversation to go. Cedar pretty much told me that he's fine either way - not eating meat or eating it, depending on who is serving the food. He seems more into going with whatever the person cooking is offering vs. making a concrete decision himself. But he is only 11, so... ?

 

At this point, the conversation was getting too long to make an impact (you know how kids can start to nod off after too much talk) so I dropped it. The Ponyo issue threw me for a loop. Sigh.


~ Jennifer
 
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Jennifer C is offline  
#21 Old 09-25-2012, 02:40 PM
 
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I was 10 and half when I became vegetarian, so, personally, I think he should make that decision on his own. As long as he realizes WHY you don't, and the harm it causes, it's his choice. :-)

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#22 Old 06-23-2013, 04:41 AM
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Im having this same issue with my  my ex husband about  our daughter, who i want to raise vegetarian, but the father is a meat eating and insist she eat it, or he makes problems, saying Im not go parent and so on, He put my daughter who is    six in a situations who dosent want to  hurt mommy or daddy, what should i tell her.

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#23 Old 06-23-2013, 05:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KHADIJAH View Post

Im having this same issue with my  my ex husband about  our daughter, who i want to raise vegetarian, but the father is a meat eating and insist she eat it, or he makes problems, saying Im not go parent and so on, He put my daughter who is    six in a situations who dosent want to  hurt mommy or daddy, what should i tell her.

I would tell a six year old this, adapted from a discussion with my cousin's young son the other day when he asked about my veganism:

Honey, there are all kinds of people in the world that eat all kinds of different things. I have chosen not to eat meat because of my love for animals and the earth and for my good health, so I eat lots of other things instead. Your dad and most people do eat animals like cows (called beef or steak or burgers or roast), chicken, baby sheep (called lamb), and pigs (called pork or hot dogs or bacon or ham.)

I won't be cooking any animals in my home, but when you go to your dad's, there will be meat served. Your dad and I will both love you no matter what you do or eat because you are the most wonderful child in the world, and we were so lucky to have you born to us.
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#24 Old 06-25-2013, 03:56 AM
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Thanks for your comment, LedBoots,I will be  relaying this message to my daughter.

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