In this counseling answer:
“A young child (7 to 10 years) should not be expected to fast every day. (However, if the child strongly wants to do so, I would encourage it.) So, it would not be wrong to have the child not fast on a day when there is a test or exam. However, you should talk with the teacher to find out how important the test is and what time of day it is. If it is one of many tests for the final grade (and thus not a lot of weight is placed on it) and it will be held in the morning, I see no reason why a child should not be allowed to fast that day if the child wants to do so.”
A child is not required to fast before reaching puberty, so give up any idea of forcing a pre-pubescent child to fast.
As for exams, the answer will also depend on the school system.
Is this an end of term or year-end exam? Or is it just a weekly spelling test or a test at the end of a chapter or unit?
How much of the child’s grade depends on this exam?
Is there just one test or a series of tests over a week or more?
Also, will the test be in the morning when the child is likely to be fresh, or in the afternoon when the child will be more tired?
A young child (7 to 10 years) should not be expected to fast every day. (However, if the child strongly wants to do so, I would encourage it.) So, it would not be wrong to have the child not fast on a day when there is a test or exam.
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However, you should talk with the teacher to find out how important the test is and what time of day it is. If it is one of many tests for the final grade (and thus not a lot of weight is placed on it) and it will be held in the morning, I see no reason why a child should not be allowed to fast that day if the child wants to do so.
Another option is to let a young child eat breakfast at the usual time and then fast the rest of the day. This way the child doesn’t have broken sleep from waking up for sahur and is fasting a few hours less than the adults.
An older child (10 and up) should be expected to fast every day as training, even if it is not yet obligatory. Again, if the test is one of many that will determine the final grade and is held in the morning, there should be no problem.
If it is a heavier test or is held later in the day (or both), an older pre-pubescent child can take the option of not fasting on that day without incurring any sin.
However, I would discourage such an action because of the need to train the child. It is better to take a positive attitude and help the child deal with the challenge. Make sure the child gets enough sleep the night before and eats a high-protein sahur (pre-dawn meal).
If there is a series of exams, such as at the end of the term, the greatest problem might not be the fasting per se, but a lack of sufficient sleep.
The child might want to stay up late studying and having to get up for sahur then breaks the sleep. If you do allow an older child to stay up very late to study, encourage him or her to take a nap in the afternoon.
Prepare a nutritious sahur that the child can eat before sleeping, then allow him or her to sleep until near the end of the Fajr (dawn) Prayer.
I think that such a situation would be most likely to occur for a teenager in secondary school, and most likely that child would be required to fast.
Let the child take responsibility:
to adjust the schedule of eating, studying, and sleeping to fit his or her own body rhythm.
As regards physical education (PE) class, again, the young child doesn’t have to fast, so you might want the child to skip fasting on days when PE is scheduled.
I would definitely advise you to talk to your all of your child’s teachers before Ramadan and inform them that your child might be fasting.
Ask the PE teacher, in particular, to give your child lighter tasks for this month. If the weather is not very hot, your child might do better than you think. Remind the child that it is OK to wash the face and neck to cool off after PE class (or any other time) but not to drink the water if he or she is fasting.
As for the child feeling hungry, that’s part of the reason for fasting, isn’t it? We learn to empathize with the less fortunate by feeling their pains. When the child complains of being hungry, try to distract him or her.
Remind the child that the worst hunger pains only last for a few minutes and after 10 or 15 minutes the child will not feel so hungry. Encourage the child to wait a while and not to eat at the first feelings of hunger.
But if the child is showing signs of tiredness, have the child sleep for a while. Most likely a child would not reach this stage until late in the day, after school.
If for some reason that is not possible and you really think the child might pass out, offer the child some juice or milk.
If the child insists on continuing the fast, you will have to decide whether there is any real danger from hypoglycemia. If there is, you may have to order the young child to eat or drink something.
Positive and encouraging attitude
Do it in an encouraging way, praising the child for what he or she has accomplished, and reminding the child that there is a reason why Allah did not make fasting obligatory for small children.
Many people who were raised Muslim tell me that they fasted as early as 7 years old with little difficulty. I think that parents who have converted to Islam and thus have never experienced fasting as a child worry more.
Have a positive and encouraging attitude at all times.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.