Teaching children about being vegetarian

A few times over the last couple of months we have been at homes where meat was at the table during our meal. at first Joshua wouldn’t pay it any mind, but lately he’s starting to ask what it is, and even wanting some when he sees his friends eat it. In school they have talked about eating turkey during thanksgiving, and what kosher foods are, making collages of the kosher groups, meat, dairy & parve.

These situations are going to come up, we surely can’t avoid them in our society so we decided to use them as learning experiences.

We explain to him that these are animals and that mommy, daddy and Joshua don’t eat animals. I’ve even asked him, Joshua, do you eat –? And he always says no, once he was a little confused when I asked about turkey, until he got that turkey is an animal. We decided not to explain, just yet, that in order to eat an animal it needs to be killed, but that conversation will come too one day.

The tricky part is when to talk about it. While with other people we only say we don’t eat —, but once we are by ourselves we find an opportunity to let him know it was an animal.

Today we found an injured bird, caught him and brought him to a rescue center. Joshua was curious about it. We talked about how we love animals and try to help them if they are hurt. Just like how we help when our friends are hurt. We started talking about birds and chickens was mentioned, I felt it was a golden opp to help him understand why the chicken his friend was eating last night, and he was asking for (not knowing what it was), we do not eat. A few moments later I saw a bunch of hens and roosters running around a yard, we couldn’t stop to see them, but it would have been a perfect way to further make that connection for him.

In order for children to understand that the food they see others eating is an animal they have to see live animals. I feel its important for all children to know where all the food they eat comes from. It’s really no different then going into a garden and showing them fruits and veggies and where they come from. I feel that if kids know this then they can make decisions based on personal knowledge instead of being told. I know as a child I loved strawberries because of the connection I had to picking them in my moms garden. I think of those sun ripened yummy red sweet fruit in the garden hanging from the green stems and the smell, every time I eat a strawberry. I honestly don’t think I’ve had as good of a strawberry as the few times I’ve picked my own. As for eating meat, I didn’t make the connection until the day my husband (boyfriend at the time) told me about it. That’s the day I became vegetarian.

So the bottom line is, the only way to empower our children, or anyone, to make informed decisions is by experience, or self-knowledge.

I’ve been asked, what if he asks to way it when he is older. Honestly that is his choice. Right now it is ours, but one day he is free to make that choice himself and I will respect his wishes. But in the meantime, I will take every chance I can to teach him all about it.

The other aspect is how it feels, obviously that’s not easy to teach, since my son has never felt the effects of meat on his body, so in this area I can teach him what feels best in his heart, and share how it felt in my body. However this is a great way to show him the connection between body and mind. That it always feels best in the body to choose foods that feels good to the mind.

Knowledge is power.

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