Hi there. I think this may be my first post on here. Sorry for bypassing the intro forum. I'm Christina :)
So here's the story. My husband and I recently adopted a no-meat lifestyle. I'm an on-again, off-again vegetarian and although we've eaten meat regularly in the past, I've always incorporated vegetables, beans, and tofu into the regular line up of meals. My two boys, who are 4 and 8, have no problem eating the vegan meals we cook. They love the green smoothies, the brocolli, the stir-fries. But, at the same time, I know the both of them are accustomed to a more traditional diet. My husband's family is puerto rican & insist that the kids need meat. At school, my older son is being taught that we need cow's milk to build healthy bones and teeth.
I felt like it would be too much to expect them to give up all meat and dairy cold turkey, so we've explained to them that even though we won't cook it or bring it in the house, they are allowed to have it outside if they choose to. It's still been a tough change, especially for my 8 yr old. He's resistant to the idea of labeling ourselves as vegans or vegetarians. Since I stopped buying meat, whenever we're at the grocery store, he emphasizes how much he loves hamburgers and chicken and cant live without them. I've tried to explain to him the reasons we're doing this (for the animals, for the environment, etc) with little success. Although he seems to understand why factory farming is bad, the whole empathy thing is beyond him at this point.
My issue is this: I just don't want them to feel like we're forcing our ideals on them. Looking back, we didn't really include the kids in our decision to stop eating meat. It just sort of happened. While I definitely don't want to start all over from square one, I also want my children to feel like they have a say in what they put in their bodies.
Also: I feel a little guilty about taking away their happy meals and hamburgers, especially when their friends are allowed to eat those things. I always say "everything in moderation" and I don't think that having those things once in a while will hurt them. I'm more concerned about creating a deep-seated longing for the things they cannot have that might result in unhealthy habits later in life. And that's the LAST thing I want to do.
Sigh. I'm a mess over this. Any advice?