Ramadan is always a very special time for Muslims all over the globe.
It’s a time for closeness to our Creator, for spiritual healing, for asking for forgiveness and seeking Allah’s content with us.
But sometimes we don’t really know how to make our children feel the uniqueness of this holy month; some other times it is even difficult to make them accept the rituals of Ramadan and understand the real meaning behind it.
We consulted the advice of a range of counselors on this issue and they provided a wealth of ideas which we can all share.
To begin with, it is important for children to understand what Ramadan is all about and how it fits into the overall life of a Muslim. That’s why parents should sit with their children and have a talk about Ramadan.
1- Choose a relaxed time with your child before Ramadan, and introduce Ramadan so that he can understand. Think of a friend or family member who is dear to your child’s heart. Ask him how he would feel if this person comes to visit you for a short while with all the presents and sweets he or she brings along. Would this visit make him happy? why? Link this to the arrival of the holy month, which comes only once a year with a lot of sweets too, this time from Allah Most High.
2- Prepare a simple action plan to get ready together for the arrival of the dear guest. How would you plan for your guest? Put the action plan together for preparing the house and yourselves for the arrival of the holy month.
3- Talking to your child about the doors of Paradise being open in this holy month is highly recommended. You can even make a tour every night into Paradise and take a closer look at what Allah, the Most High, has prepared for those who obey Him in this holy month.
Remember also to help the children make the most of Ramadan by getting them excited about the fasting and the breaking of the fast.
4- Take the children with you to the masjid; depending on your masjid policy and your child’s age.
5- Get your children help-prepare of the suhur and iftar meals.
6- Get them to give in charity so that they realize all of the blessings of Ramadan. Teach the kids to make du`aa’. Let them know they can ask for anything they want. Teach them to ask for things for others as well as for themselves.
Ramadan in the West
Ramadan for children in non-Muslim countries can be a challenge. Children in general have a natural need to belong, to belong to a family, a school or to a group of friends.
To be able to fit in and belong in a certain place or to a certain group, one feels he/she has to be the same, the same in attitudes, in habits, etc. During Ramadan, children cannot help but be different and this can be difficult.
The challenge lies in the fact that children may feel they will be risking rejection by being different. The challenge is also magnified when other children in the class start asking questions about the reason for fasting, and thus highlighting this difference and making Muslim children feel self-conscious and sometimes embarrassed.
Questions non-Muslim children ask Muslim ones may be about the reasons for fasting and whether the purpose behind fasting can still be achieved while eating some sweets or drinking a cup of water only or not.
They may also ask questions on whether Muslim children feel tired or exhausted due to fasting and show feelings of being sorry for them. It is not easy for children to cope with such feelings and remarks, such situations can be challenging to young adults as well, not just children.
The question is how can we equip our children to help them deal with this difference?
1- Build Confidence: Confidence is a child’s best defense against peer pressure. When we arm our children with a sense of self-worth, by highlighting their strength and determination to choose fasting and to continue fasting, we help them cope with outside pressures.
2-Encouragement: It is important to continually remind your child of how proud you are of his fasting and how Allah will reward him. This way we are teaching our children that self-worth and strength comes from the inside not the outside. This confidence will be a safeguard against peer pressure in general and will greatly help in Ramadan.
3- Direct the Child as to Whom We Should Please: The child must know that in our life we only seek Allah’s love and our deeds should please Allah, and when Allah is pleased then people will accept you ISA.
4-We need to teach our children that people are different and that it is normal to be different .
Allah has created us with much difference and diversity and us as human beings should accept each other and respect differences between us.
5- Involve them with Muslims: Being together will give them the support and strength.
And now is your child ready to fast?
Talking to your child about it all will help you see how he or she feels, and to give the child a chance to make decisions. Involving children in deciding whether to fast or not helps give them a lot of pride in their action when they fast, as well as a lot of stamina to continue fasting, because they made the decision.
The years before fasting is obligatory should be used properly to give children confidence in their physical capabilities to fast, as well as confidence in their decision-making abilities.
It should always be stressed however that there is a choice because they have not reached the age when fasting is compulsory, and how merciful Allah is in that.
It should also be stressed that the time will come when there will no longer be a choice because Allah knows best that then it will be within their capabilities. Physical capabilities and age are the main factors in deciding whether your child can have physical activities while fasting or not. Whether the child can have an exam while fasting or not is a different issue.
If your child is physically able to go to school every day and concentrate, then exams shouldn’t be a problem. On the contrary, you can encourage the child to fast during exam times based on the fact that Allah will bless the day and effort because he or she is fasting. As for feeling of hunger, once again, it really depends on your child’s capabilities and choices.
If it is only a short time until iftar, then you should encourage the child to go on fasting. Perhaps your child feels hungry because he or she did not have a filling suhur. So, try to make sure that your child gets a good amount of food during suhur.
Finally, remember always that we, parents, are the models for our children. If we raise our iman and succeed in that, we will give the needed example to our children. and remember also that we ourselves took some time to internalize the real value of Ramadan.
The older you are, in sha’ Allah, the more you are ready and, hopefully, willing to explore the inner meanings of Ramadan. I think that concentrating on making Ramadan a warm, positive, and happy experience in the whole house is a priority and the main objective is the general air of the house, which will pave the way to all other objectives
May Allah link our hearts and the hearts of our children to Iman (faith) and grant us, and them his mercy and forgiveness and accept our fast and good deeds, Amen.
First published: May 2014