Congratulations that you are so blessed to bring your family to Hajj. It does seem that you have already provided many good and wonderful experiences to prepare your children for this big journey.
In addition to teaching your children the beautiful stories of Islam and about the Prophets of Allah (Peace Be Upon Them), consider providing your children with a language that they can incorporate into their experience that will assist them through all their years on this earth. What I mean is that babies are naturally ones with the forces of creation, thus, are pure. They have not formed concepts yet as the human condition require language to be set within the mind in a logically structured manner first.
Then, the human can use these words which are matched to initial images in the mind to form ideas and concepts. Adults rely heavily upon concepts that are formed from language to understand their own world, to feel connected to Allah, and to have a sense of spirituality. Young children begin learning the language, and then putting the linguistics to experiences and forming images which are eventually connected to words. Children at the age of six to twelve are engaged in a process of solidifying many language-based concepts and forming “conclusions” after analyzing them. These conclusions become the basic belief systems that will guide their learning process and behaviors as adolescence throughout adulthood.
You have a window of opportunity to provide your children with a language that opens the door to Allah! Below are the four areas I suggest you to emphasize with your children prior to Hajj:
- Names of Allah
- The interconnectedness of all souls in Allah and in Allah alone.
Your children will have plenty of time to perfect their prayers and to learn good Muslim manners and the religion of Islam. Hajj can be an experience that firmly sets an opening within the heart and soul of your children. Therefore, they can not only learn the tenants of the faith, but feel the power, the love, and the essence of creation and develop that “bridge” of concepts that will keep that opening within them. Then, you will have facilitated the creation of a fertile soil where your children’s spirituality can take root. To do this, naturally, you must make it FUN.
For prayer and life, simply ask your children several times to give you their own explanation about what prayer is and what their life is all about. They will likely have many answers. Just ask them these questions several times during a time when you are playing or having fun.
Another prayer and life activity is to have each member of the family write down a blessing that they wish for another family member. For example, you can have your youngest wishes a blessing for his father and your oldest wishes a blessing for the younger sibling. Then the father wishes a blessing for you and you can wish a blessing for the elder sibling. Everyone can write these blessings down on a paper and then put them in a bowl. You can pick the blessings out of the bowl during dinner.
Additionally, you can have a special “intention night” just prior to the journey where you assist your children in writing their heart’s intention as it relates to what they want to experience or develop within themselves during Hajj. Do this by having a coloring or painting session where your children draw, color, or paint a picture of what Hajj means to them. Although, their responses may not be very sophisticated, it teaches them to open their mind to ponder these things. Do not try to help them make their intentions (pictures) more sophisticated; just let them simply be whatever they are. This should be fun, so provide children’s nasheeds (Islamic songs without musical instruments) and snacks. Be cheerful and have fun with them – draw a picture yourself!
SING! I actually listened to the YouTube song about the 99 names of Allah for children…. And I had so much fun! I often recommend a weekly “family night” that is always set aside for family fun and bonding. There is no time like the present to begin this, and begin with watching and singing along with these YouTube videos. A family that sings together springs to life together!
There are a lot of other fun songs that are also “spiritual” as well. The beauty is that by learning the 99 names of Allah now, your children are establishing a firm language from which their expanding conceptual growth and understanding about the Nature, Will, and Presence of Allah will grow throughout their life. This alone will nurture and protect them all their lives, in sha’ Allah.
Finally, the awareness of our interconnectedness with each other and with Allah is part of the overall experience of the Hajj journey. Point this out often in simple and happy/positive language during the journey. This is the best opportunity they will have at an age where the concepts will be imbedded deep within their subconscious, providing them with a very strong and firm support all their lives.
For example, make positive comments about someone in the group to your children; explain them your appreciation for others in the group. You might say, “isn’t it wonderful to know how many of us are here who love each other in the name of Allah!”, or “Look! That person is being so very kind!” Then, point out the fact that “We are all souls, and we are all in this together.”
I often emphasized to my children that we are spiritual beings having a human experience with so many other spiritual beings and loving each other through the humanity that Allah has blessed us with. It is ok if your children do not have developed sophisticated conceptual awareness at this time. If you make this positive and fun, they will be developing the language within their subconscious minds from which more sophisticated and developed concepts will grow, ensuring that their conscious awareness of their own spirituality and connection to humanity and Allah will be strong.
Now, to prepare your children for the difficult times when they might become tried or cranky, I suggest that you have little, 5 to 7 minute-mini talks daily and address all the possible situation your children might encounter which might make them feel uncomfortable. This will help them be prepared for such events. Try to list these and think about what the focus of your little discussion will be. For example, what to do when you really have to go to the bathroom and you are feeling very uncomfortable.
Talk about it; help your children have several little “action plans” that they can use for any kind of possible situation that they might encounter. In this way, you are helping them develop coping skills and problem solving skills for those times when the journey might feel more difficult. Topics might include: what to do if I get bored; what to do if I get tired: what to do if I feel cranky; what to do if I am hungry and cannot eat; what to do if I need to go to the bathroom; etc.
I pray these suggestions will provide you with some ideas and/or spark your own creative ideas.
Have a blessed Hajj, in sha’ Allah!
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