It is difficult for my family to understand my vegetarianism. What should I do if my parents are not in favor of my being a vegetarian?
Are your parents against your being a vegetarian? Mine were. My parents strongly believed that vegetarian diet lacks some essential nutrition and it is harmful. Whenever I got a problem on my body from knee ache to canker sore, they said, "Look, it happened because you do not eat meat or fish. Your diet lacks something important for your body." Being worried about me, they sometimes attempted to make me eat fish. I ended up not being able to bring it to my mouth, and then felt sorry for my parents, and the fish staying quietly in front of me.
If you had parents like mine, it may be difficult to have them understand your being a vegetarian. You might feel guilty to make them worried about your health, or you might sometimes get irritated against their not understanding. I understand it very much, however, let me remind you that you are happy to have parents who care about your health. They have a word only because they want you to be healthy. Then, what you need to do is to learn vegetarian nutrition thoroughly, and explain how being a vegetarian is harmless, but rather beneficial. When you could explain soundly about the safeness of vegetarian diet, you will succeed to make your parents relieved.
To persuade somebody, first of all, you have to understand it well. These days, it is very easy to collect the information on vegetarian nutrition, which is available on the internet (www.vrg.org for example) or in many books. Not only for persuading your parents but also for yourself, it is very important. Learning nutrition, health or cooking will definitely make you richer as person, and will comfort your parents' anxiety.
Also, statements from reliable organizations will be a good material to relieve them. For example, the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, American Dietetic Association states that, "appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." There are many doctors and dietitians who espouse vegetarian diet, and lots of scientific researches which support vegetarian benefit. In my case, showing these facts were really effective to make my parents feel relaxed.
I personally think that it is good to have people who have different opinions from yours and listen to, and discuss with them. Through interaction, you could get the opportunity to think of your belief, and consider your being. So, do not get depressed but think positively. Do not avoid to talk with them but listen to them, and be calm, and explain what you believe, and what medical and nutritional facts say. Thinking of and explaining what you believe, not only vegetarianism, but also things like religion, or political party is really important you and will definitely make you consistent and confident.
Moreover, even if your parents understand your being a vegetarian, it will be sometimes difficult to have the same meal with them. You cannot always ask them to cook everything vegetarian. I have been away from my family for studying, however, when I stay with them ,my mother was in trouble to think what to offer us. She tried to cook with only vegetables as much as possible. I felt sorry for her, who is good at meat and fish dishes, kept away from them and made her cook something very simple. So, I decided to cook something vegetarian for myself and my family, and she cooked whatever she and my family likes. It is sad if you cook on your own and eat everything different from your family. It is understandable that you need different meal from the others, it is also important to share meal with your parents, at least to have a table together. I hope you discuss with your family and find out the best way for both of you and them.
Being a vegetarian is sometimes troublesome and apt to affect people around you. Your family will be the closest ones to you, so getting their understanding is very important for everything. I often had a dispute with my family, especially with my parents over vegetarianism, and sometimes tried to get away from them. However, getting away from them or ignoring them does not resolve anything. I have no will to convert them into vegetarians though, I am happy to see them trying to have more vegetables and less meat. I wish you could discuss with your family and be pleased and comfortable to be a vegetarian.
by Yuko Tamura, Kyoto, Japan
(Though Yuko is not a native English speaker, and from a country which appears to have less vegetarians than in many English speaking countries, we didn't greatly edit her words as we wanted to share her tremendous insight, which would apply to teens worldwide.)