A couple of years ago when I decided to go vegan I had to face many challenges, a difficult one was navigating my relationships with those around me, from parents, to friends and colleagues. First step was to accept that just because my family loves me, doesn’t mean that they are going to make the same life style decisions but still I must respect them.
Sure, I understand that when we feel very deeply about veganism, we can find it difficult to dine with our non vegan family, but at the same time we must be wise and respectful, disagreements can quickly escalate to more serious arguments, isolation and in some cases even alienation from our family.
Burning bridges with those we love the most isn’t good for us, neither for them and especially the animals we are trying to protect. We can only initiate positive change if we have the opportunity to talk and politely debate with friends and family.
The final goal is to maintain our family relationship while stay true to ourselves without having to compromise our belief.
This is what I have learnt so far and what I do when going back home:
1. Talk clear
Let your friend and family know why you decided to go vegan, don’t take for granted they will understand your reasons. You might have done weeks or months of research but they don’t know that and your decision might seem impulsive to them.
2. Be Supportive
My mum was really cool about me being vegan and very supportive, however she found it difficult to cook two sets of meals and figuring out what I needed to eat to stay healthy. So I spent time going through our “normal food” at home (literally through the fridge!) and showed her that many ingredients were already vegan and available in the house! Now she loves cooking yummy meals for me whenever I go back home. I always go the extra mile to let her know how much I appreciate it when she cook vegan food for me, she loves it!
3. Cook for them!
Another very simple advice will be to let your family know that you are happy to help shopping and cooking for them. You can show them how easy it is to make yummy vegan food and how many recipes are available on line. I sent my mum an email with lots of food blog links. Also, wanting to help in the kitchen shows your commitment to the cause, you are serious about animal welfare and really want them to be part of your journey. Encourage them as much as possible to eat vegan food and buy vegan substitutes for the family. They might never make the transition to veganism, but I promise you, you’ll soon find the fridge full of vegan food!
4. Talk to them
Luckily I cannot relate to this but I heard some stories of parents swapping vegan food with not vegan food. Here, I haven’t experienced that first hand but I would like to say: please remember that they love you and probably are only trying to do their best to help - be honest with them, let them know how that makes you feel, let them know this behaviour isn't welcome and ultimately it breaks your trust. Communication is key. If talking to them might not be so easier then write them a letter, they will read it in their own time and reflect on it.
Ultimately be kind, don't get angry and acknowledge anytime they try to understand you and learn something new about veganism, you are in the same team!
Lots of love,