VWPA Advice #008: My Parents Won’t Help Me Be Vegan!
How can I be vegan when my family won’t help?
I’m 15 and I really want to be vegan. I eat as vegan as I can, but my parents don’t support it. They won’t buy me any special food and they won’t make vegan meals for family events. The times they do agree to buy me food, they confuse vegetarian with vegan and get me things that have dairy in them. What can I do?
This is such a tough situation, I’m sorry you are experiencing this. It is so hard being a teenager, developing your own sense of right and wrong in the world, while still being dependent on people who don’t share your worldview.
There are a few things you can do:
- Wait it out: Eat as vegan as you can but just go with the flow knowing that someday soon(ish) you’ll have far more control over what you’re eating.
- Ask for specific items: Give your parents a list of inexpensive items that they can purchase for you to cook. This will be challenging as a teen – it means you need to know how to cook, know something about nutrition and be able to meal plan, which is a lot to ask of a 15 year old – but it might help. If you can figure out simple meals or snacks that you can make and they’ll agree to it, it might help. Beans and rice, stirfry, baked potatoes stuffed with any sauce-y thing, sandwiches, salads, cereal are all good options.
- Buy your own food: I will say, right off the bat, I don’t like this option. I don’t think any child (I know you’re not a little kid, but in terms of needing food and shelter, you are still your parents child) should have to buy their own food.
I’m extremely biased – my father stopped buying food for us when I was in high school and I had to spend a lot of my time and energy figuring out how to eat, how to feed my sisters, having to work 20-30 hours a week while in high school and having a huge chunk of my paycheck go to food – but I strongly disagree with any person under the age of 18 or so having to figure out where their next meal is coming from. However, it is an option.
Most jobs that hire young people revolve around food, so if you can find a job at a vegan-friendly restaurant, coffee shop, supermarket, etc. you may be able to afford your own food and also get meals for free or things you can take home (like day old bagels) as part of your shift.
- A combination of the above: Probably the most reasonable solution is a mix of everything above. Perhaps you could get a job or ask your parents to swap chores for groceries, or maybe even grades for groceries. You can ask for certain inexpensive items, or ask them to switch out some staples for vegan versions (maybe they’d be ok with non-dairy milks and vegan butter?) and then use your paycheck to buy meat substitutes or luxury items like Chao cheese. And, you will have times where maybe you have to eat non-vegan things and just make peace with it, knowing someday you’ll make different choices for yourself.
In the end, you have a right to decide what goes in your body and what you contribute to, but unfortunately your are under the thumb of your parents for at least three more years. You are in a unique position, where your beliefs aren’t just in your head, they are conflicting with an activity (eating) that you have to do 3+ times a day. My dad was a racist, sexist, bigot but all I really had to do was ignore him and then be a better human on my own terms. I wasn’t in conflict with actions we were taking on a daily basis. Veganism is hard, and I’m coming to realize it’s especially hard on the younger generation that so badly want to make a difference in the world but are at the mercy of their families, who aren’t always supportive.
Whatever path you choose, keep an open dialogue with your family. Sometimes the least accepting families do eventually come around. Find allies where you can – maybe you have a vegetarian cousin, or an aunt who supports your decisions? – and just remember that you are helping the movement and the animals everyday that you care about what goes on your plate, even if you can’t control it. As you grow, you will inspire and confront countless people on your journey, and you will be one more desperately needed voice in the movement.
I’m proud of you, warrior princess! Stay strong!
Wow, I can’t image how difficult this must be, I’m so sorry you are going through this! Now the advice I have to give probably won’t be popular (but screw it right?)… Just do what you can while you are still living at home and dependent on your parents. If you are not in a position right now to be fully vegan, that’s ok, you’ll get there eventually! Being an advocate for animals isn’t about perfection, it is about lessening the harm we contribute as much as possible. If for right now you are going to occasionally have to eat something not vegan, please don’t beat yourself up for it, you are doing the best you can.
In the meantime keep talking to your family about why its important to you that your food choices be less harmful to yourself, the animals and the planet, maybe some day they will come around. It’s important though that you continue to take care of yourself by eating a well rounded diet (we wouldn’t want you living off of just PB&Js or something!) and by trying to maintain a decent relationship with your family while you are living at home (living in a stressful situation can take a huge toll on your wellbeing!)
Just know that while our (in person) social community isn’t always as supportive as we would like, there are lots of us vegans online who are rooting for you!