Have you ever wondered that a plant-based lifestyle could actually influence your child’s psychological, social, and behavioural development? Well, the answer is yes! Children are exposed to different kinds of environments, people, habits and lifestyles during their developmental stages. As children are extremely sensitive to their surroundings during these stages, it is our responsibility as parents to have the right influence on them.
|Plant-based lifestyles help to cut down animal cruelty and create awareness about saving the earth. While explaining these to children, we can create a sense of care, compassion, value of life and the importance of saving the earth. When these factors are conveyed to children in ways they would understand, it influences their perceptions, thought processes and overall personality.|
Erik Erikson had classified child psychosocial development into 8 stages.
Let us understand a little more in detail about how plant-based lifestyles can influence children’s psychosocial development during the first 5 stages from birth to adolescence:
Stage 1- Trust vs. Mistrust
This stage begins from your child’s birth to 18 months of age. The trust versus mistrust stage is the most crucial stage of your child’s psychosocial development as it helps them develop their view of the world and their own personality.
During this stage babies are completely dependent on their parents/caregivers. It is very important to build a sense of trust in them for a positive impact on their emotional development. Babies and children are very keen on observation and listening, therefore we must be mindful about our daily practices.
When we follow a plant-based lifestyle, we avoid talking about taking away lives of other creatures and we normalize plants as our sources of food. This helps to create a sense of trust and allows the child to think of the world as a safe and secure place to live in.
Stage 2- Autonomy vs. shame and doubt
This stage begins from 18 months to 2-3 years of age. During this stage, children start to develop self-control and independence. It could be in small forms such as toilet training, food habits, clothing choices and preference of toys.
When we follow plant-based lifestyles, the child only knows about plant-based foods and their food decisions will be based on their observations and options they get to see every day. This helps them gain confidence that they are doing the right things and prevents self-doubt.
Stage 3- Understanding initiative vs. guilt
This developmental stage takes place between 3-5 years of age during preschool. During this stage children get introduced to social interactions and try to explore new things on their own. At this stage, it is necessary for children to understand that they can take initiatives and must be given the freedom to explore.
When parents are following a plant-based lifestyle, they are encouraging their children to make the correct choices and at the same time they are also giving them a chance to explore among the different kinds of plant-based foods available. Through this way, the children overcome their fear of trying new things and become more confident in the future.
Stage 4- Industry vs. Inferiority
This developmental stage approximately takes place between 6-11 years of age. During this stage, there is an expansion of children’s social world as they begin to make new friends. They are exposed to different tasks in school which helps them develop a competitive spirit and pride in their capabilities.
When children grow around plant-based lifestyles, this stage enables them to understand and compare their habits to other peers and friends. Though they observe different eating habits, they do not feel inferior about their plant-based habits as they have been learning that harming animals is not a good thing to do.
When they are encouraged and praised about this, they feel like they are doing better than their friends which increases their strength and confidence. This results in constant efforts to do good in the future as well.
Stage 5- Identity vs. role confusion
The fifth stage is the adolescence stage which occurs around 12-18 years of age. This is a crucial stage for developing a strong personal identity. Apart from parents, a number of external factors such as friends, broad social interactions, emerging trends etc contribute in forming an identity.
During this stage, plant-based lifestyles help them get a clarity about their beliefs and perceptions. Continuous emphasis from parents relieves their confusion and helps them take stable decisions.
As explained above, plant-based lifestyles play a crucial role in every stage of your child’s psychosocial development. It’s time we break all the myths about plant-based diets and get accustomed to a new lifestyle for ourselves and our children’s positive future ahead!
- Orenstein G, Lewis L. Eriksons Stages of Psychosocial Development. 2020
- Baranowski T. Influences on Children’s Dietary Behavior, and Innovative Attempts to Change It. 2013; Ann Nutr Metab ;62(suppl 3):38-46
- O’Connor TM, Hughes SO, Watson KB, et al. Parenting practices are associated with fruit and vegetable consumption in pre-school children. Public Health Nutr 2010; 13:91-101.
- Hingle MD, O’Connor TM, Dave JM, et al. Parental involvement in interventions to improve child dietary intake: a systematic review. Prev Med 2010; 51:103-111.