Be a Better Parent! (Counseling Live Session)

Salamu alaykum dear brothers and sisters,

We would like to thank you for joining us in this live session.

We would like also to thank our counselor, sister Hannah Morris for answering the questions.

If you have any queries that you would like to send to our upcoming live session, feel free to send them to [email protected]


Question 1

Which is better: growing up with one parent or in a family where parents live together but the child hears and sees their constant dispute?

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

Rhos is a question that many parents ask themselves when contemplating a divorce and in many cases, this can be the sole reason why parents choose to stay together rather than divorce; for the sake l of their children.

On the surface it may seem like staying together for the sake of being able to raise children with both parents around is the best option, but many a time it is not, especially if the children are constantly exposed to arguments between the parents.

It could certainly be argued that raising children in a 2 parent family is better than a single parent family as the children receive the support that they need form birth parents.

This is most ideal. However, when the parents are openly not getting in then the children are usually the ones to suffer the most for so many reasons.

As a result, in the first instance, it is recommended that the parents seek counselling as a means to try and rectify things in their marriage and set things straight again.

This may work, but not always. In which case, they should both be wary of their behavior towards each other in the children’s presence in the knowledge that they are picking up on everything and will experience some level of trauma as a result.

This may be in the form of delinquency and rebellion, Sadness and depression, guilt and feeling it’s their fault or even impact on future marital relationship further down the line. This can be easier said than done if a couple is on the verge of divorce.

Even if any heated arguments are kept behind closed doors, attitudes can be exhibited in more subtle ways that children can pick up on. This can influence them in much the same way as overt arguing can.

Additionally, when parents are not getting along, they often take their anger and/or Sadness out in their children. They are unlikely doing this deliberately, but when emotions are heightened, it can be easy to lash out on those close by without always realizing.

This may come across in a way that is a bit short and snappy, being less involved, or being emotionally distanced to name a few. Parents in this situation should be aware of this and consciously try to avoid this for the sake of the children.

These are things that parents in this situation should be aware of to minimise the impact on the children who are completely innocent.

Parents may try their level best to make things work for the sake of making things work for the children, but it doesn’t always work and in fact things may even get worse and the impact on the children alongside this.

Frustrations and negative feelings may continue to increase and the overt and covert signs of disagreement between the couple reach new levels.

In this case the parents need to seriously consider the negative impact on the children and that perhaps they can be better parents to their children separately than together.

Staying together may only be hurting them more and teaching them bad lessons about marriage. If the couple split, they may be happier in themselves and therefore better able to parent effectively apart. This way the children are not exposed to arguments and instead get to see their parents happier.

It can be a very difficult choice to make and couples may cling on to an unhealthy and unhappy marriage longer than necessary to try and make things better for their children, not realising that it is actually being more damaging to the children for them to stay in a failing marriage.

Of a couple choose to try and make things work, then they must be very conscious of the above effects, and if they choose to part then it’s important to get all the necessary supports in place for them and the children, ensuring to constantly reassure them to ensure a more successful adjustment to a new way of life.

May Allah help all parents in this kind of position and guide them to make the decision that will be best for them and their children.


Question 2

Dear counselor, please advise for couples where the mother is not a Muslim. How can they raise their children as Muslims? What are the most important things such couples must do in order to have a happy, Islamic environment at home?

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

Raising children in a household where the mother is not a Muslim whilst achieving a happy and Islamic environment largely depends on the mother’s attitudes to living in such an environment.

Islamically, athe children should be raised upon the religion of the father so in theory, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, perhaps if the mother comes from a strict Christian or Jewish upbringing there may be some resistance.

This may especially be the case if her family are strong in their religious beliefs and still hold a lot of influence on the woman, whether in more subtle ways, or openly and aggressively. This could make things more difficult, but not impossible.

In this case, it would require a lot more teamwork between the mother and father to negotiate and be open about their own thoughts on the matter. The most important topic to address in this case would be those where the mother does not agree with certain Islamic practices.

Hopefully, there won’t be anything since she knowingly accepted and married a Muslim man, but it’s important that these things are addressed first to avoid any disputes moving forward. Such examples may include things like not celebrating Christmas whereas this has been a practice that has been part of her life forever.

In this case, you may negotiate that since she is not a Muslim she is free to celebrate herself with her family, but that she should not bring it into the house. There may be other things too that you would need to negotiate together. This is vital to ensuring a healthy upbringing for the children from the start and to avoid potential arguments further down the line.

Even if there is no resistance from the mother and they are willing to raise the children in a Muslim home, it is still important that the mother and father communicate well in the topic.

Since she is not a Muslim, she may not be aware of some of the necessities of a Muslim home so will first and foremost need to be educated on this to ensure she is not teaching the children or supporting them in things that are not compatible with Islam. This could easily happen quite innocently simply due to a lack of knowledge.

Since there is so much to learn it’s important that the most important and basic things are implemented first.

This will make things easier for her and more comfortable for the children too. If she is expected to implement too much in one go then it could become overwhelming and difficult for her and cause difficulties for her as well as put tension on all relations in the home.

In time, as she learns more, she might start learning some of the sunnah practices and begin to implement the same and encourage the children in these things.

When it comes to education, perhaps you could encourage her to attend any Islamic classes with the children. This will serve to increase her relevant knowledge as well as increase the bond between her and the children in a happy and supportive environment.

There are also many things that can be done to support a happy, Islamic environment in the home without even requiring any knowledge of Islam as such.

Things such as showing love and support to each other and towards the children is vital in Islam, but are also qualities that can be exhibited by anyone regardless of their knowledge of Islam or not.

Since the mother is not a Muslim, the husband will need to be more actively involved in the children’s upbringing than he may be otherwise as a means to support the mother in a task that is new to her.

This also serves a secondary purpose of being good role models to the children and showing them what a happy and supportive marriage looks like. In sha Allah, this should have a positive impact on their marital relationships in the future.

In sha Allah, in time, as she becomes familiar with Islam and supports the raising of her children in the Deen of Islam, she herself will fall in love with Islam and become a Muslim too.

May Allah reward your concern for families where the mother is not a Muslim and may He guide those in such a family to the path of Islam.


Question 3

How can I raise my children in a non-Muslim environment as good Muslims, without making them feel that they cannot do anything, everything is forbidden for them (or, well, at least many things), and their parents are forbidding them all the time.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

This is a challenge that many Muslim families in the West face in a daily basis. It is even more of a challenge to those who live in an area that has few Muslims.

Adults may have acquired more resilience and be better able to manage themselves in this case, however, the children can be left feeling confused and left out if they don’t have the necessary skills and support. Alhamdulilah, as parents, we are in a string position to lessen such impacts on them.

Whilst Muslims may be less in non-Muslim countries, they do still exist. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where there is a masjid, or other Muslims locally, or at least local enough, then make sure to connect with them. This is for your sake as much as your children’s.

It can be difficult to feel different for anyone, so being with other Muslims can help to ease any difficult thoughts and feelings one might have otherwise.

It will be particularly useful for your children if there are children in these families, or if there are Islamic classes held in your local masjid as this is where they can connect with others like them without feeling singled out or different.

If this is not and option, or even if it is, you could endeavor to connect them with other Muslim children online. Given the current situation such connections have become much more accessible.

It may be that you don’t have a masjid very close by, but there may be others in your country that are holding classes online. Whilst not the same as connecting with other children face to face, it still gives them the opportunity to connect with other Muslim children.

It may not be quite as encouraging as face to face interactions, but in the same light, it does give them the chance to realize that they are not alone and that there are others following the same religion as them in a country that otherwise doesn’t. This should provide them with some reassurance.

As well as this, another way you can make things easy for them is to educate them in particular in the practices that may be commonly seen where you are that they may otherwise not be permitted to engage in.

Often children may start to feel angry and even rebellious of they are constantly being prevented from doing what everyone else is. Sometimes that curiosity may even push them to join them.

This is why educating them is very important to prevent this from happening. Not only does it give them the knowledge, but it also helps to foster a strong and trusting relationship between you which will be crucial in giving them the space to turn to you when they have questions or are struggling.

For example, with Christmas coming up, this could be one of those occasions where your children feel left out and missing out on the fun that others are having at this time. This can be very tough in them, especially when they are in the minority.

In this case, give your children an idea of what they are celebrating and why we do not celebrate it. Highlight to them what we do celebrate and how at Eid we are having fun celebrating and those who are not Muslims are missing out, much like they feel they might be a Christmas time.

This is just a single example but gives you an idea of how to address any similar matters with them. It is also something that should be discussed with them in an age-appropriate way.

Discussing it with them will, in sha Allah, make it seem less like you are being mean to forbid them from doing so much because you are justifying why whilst giving them the space to ask questions of they have any. It’ll strengthen your bond too so that they do not feel like you are nagging them.

You can also tackle this less directly too simply by encouraging a strong Islamic environment in the home where they can develop a pride in their Deen.

This way they won’t even have any desire to do anything that is not in line with Islam for fear of angering Allah. Literally, make Islam the way of life in your home where you implement as much as possible. Pray together, read together, learn together …etc.

Make these activities things that will bring you close together as a family. This will encourage a positive association with Islam whilst in the process of learning and implementing Islamic practices. Let them be as involved as possible where possible.

Let them be involved in the decision making process, such as choosing which surahs to read, or which courses to study. This will also help to strengthen their connection with Islam whilst building skills of independence that will be helpful for them also when dealing with matters outside of the home that they should not be involved with.

May Allah reward your concern to raise your children on His path and may He guide you in doing so successfully.


4. Question

I am struggling so much with my work-life-balance. While I worry about neglecting my children, I also worry about how they can get off on the right foot and better balance their lives than I do. Are there ways to help my children be better organized and well-balanced than I am?

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

This is a struggle that many parents face to some extent or another. This particular situation has been exacerbated with the current crisis as parents have to learn new ways to juggle the same responsibilities.

This is not an easy task. It is important for us, as adults, to be able to try and manage these things effectively for our own sake, but as you have also mentioned, our children will learn from us too so this provides another reason to try to be more organized.

Even though you have specifically focused on how you can nurture organisation in your children, you could actually get alot more out of this by working in your own organisation skills.

This will not only benefit you personally, but it will also give them a good example of how it’s done and what works. Also, even though you feel you are not organised now, this will also provide the examoke of how not to do it too, and the consequences of it.

So, to work on your own skills will be beneficial to all. There are many management strategies that have been established and not all of them will be suitable for everyone so usually requires a process of trial and error.

Some of these strategies you could be teaching your children and supporting them in implementing them as you do the same. For example, a pretty simple way of promoting organisation is to write to do lists and scheduling ahead of time.

This is something that adults and children alike can do. Perhaps you could all sit down together on a Sunday for example and together write down the tasks that you have to complete during the coming week.

Write a schedule for each day. Take it in turns to present your schedules to one another. This way you can feedback to them whether you feel their schedule is realistic or ways they might improve.

Likewise, invite them to do the same for you. They may be younger and less experienced than you but they may come up with suggestions that are more suitable.

This way you are collaboratively working together on establishing good organization within the home and sharing this experience together. This could be good for all.

The following Sunday, you might take time to reflect together on what worked well and what didn’t and factor these things into your schedule for the next week. This will encourage problem-solving skills and working towards a more efficient organization in a practical way.

Each week you may try new things if necessary; cut out unnecessary activities, give more time, schedule fewer things, plan for the unexpected. These are all things that will be learned along the way as new things come up.

Working together on this provides the support and encouragement that is needed during this initial stage. This will encourage healthy organisational practice from an early stage that will eventually become part of a routine for them, and You.

Aside from the practical element in this exercise with your children, it will also provide an opportunity to bond together on this joint task. This will help to ease your concerns about worrying that they may feel neglected because you are giving them this focused time.

Furthermore, this task gives them responsibility for their actions, but with your support to begin with as they learn to implement these things more independently.

Alternatively, you may find that scheduling ahead like this is not working at all and other techniques need to be tested. There are many methods that have shared that help with organisation Such as scheduling as mentioned here.

You might find that different techniques work for each of you even. For example, lots of these kinds of techniques are very useful when it comes to studying such as using techniques whereby you time yourself for a set amount of time, then break for a short time, then repeat the cycle.

These might be more useful for your children but less so for you. In this case, do make sure to open their eyes to these things even if they are not those suitable for you.

Another task that may be useful for you and give you a pointer for nurturing your children is to think about when it went wrong for you. For you, this gives you the space to focus on that particular event and work specifically on this.

This will help you to share useful advice with your children based on your own experience. For example, it may be that you too on an extra role or hobby which takes up extra time that you don’t have.

Or, perhaps you had children but didn’t make space for them by cutting something else down. As a result of either, you might advise your children to be realistic about the number of things they can take on at once, for example.

However, regardless of how organised you are, you also help to teach your children these things now, before they become adults and face the same juggling act.

Even if you find that your techniques are not working for you, take the time to frequently check in with them to see how they’re getting on. Reward any wins and if they are struggling support them back on track again and encourage them.

May Allah guide you and support you and bring you comfort during your struggles. May He guide your children to what is best for them and make them the coolness of your eyes in this life and the next.


5. Question

How will I be able to tell if the Corona Pandemic has left my children with long term mental health issues? 

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

This is a concern in many people’s minds right now; young and old. Our children may not be able to express their emotions effectively just yet, but that does not mean that they are not experiencing the psychological effects of the current pandemic as much as anyone else.

In fact, it may be argued that the impact is more because they have insufficient skills and experience to manage their feelings. For example, change is difficult for us to deal with as adults, so for a child, the effect is so much more.

As well as change and social distancing, we are also being faced with death all around us with people dying by the thousands daily from the virus; another thing that can be difficult for children to understand.

Naturally, as a parent, this will be very concerning to you but there are some things that you can do to ease your concerns and make things easier for you and them.

Firstly, make sure you are making it easy for them to talk to you if they need to.

Talk to them about mental health in an age appropriate way. Talk to them generally about how this situation is making people feel generally. Ask them how they feel about it.

But, also tell them how you feel about it. Be open and honest and this will encourage them to do the same. Tell them it’s making you feel sad or worried, how about them? This opens the door to them sharing any negative emotions too.

They may not be ready to share anything right away, but making sure the opportunity is there and they are made to feel it’s always there will give them at least one coping tool. The fact that you are sharing your own thoughts too might encourage them to open up too.

If they expose any particular concern then you have something to target directly and support them with. For example, if it is that they are sad because they miss a family member, then you could help them to draw a picture for them and post it to them.

This gives them a creative outlet to express themselves whilst giving them a means to partially at least overcome something that’s causing them some level of distress.

Don’t make this just a one off discussion, make it a regular thing. Whilst you have tried to make it easier for them to open up to you, they still might not feel comfortable to be the one to make the first move.

Perhaps once or twice a week make a point of checking in with them to see how they’re doing. Perhaps something new has come up that they need support with. This lets them know that you care and that you are always there for them.

In the meanwhile, make sure to be keeping an eye out for the symptoms of mental health problems. For example, look out for them being more isolating than usual by perhaps staying out of the way in their room, seemingly not finding any joy out of anything anymore, not being motivated, crying, not talking as much… Etc.. To name a few.

This may be a cry out for additional support. Address them about your concern and again, give them that space to open up, or at least to come to you when they are ready. With the potentially lasting effects of Covid, this will likely be something to keep an eye on for some time to come.

Also, whilst there have been many changes to life as we know it, there are also still opportunities available. Engaging in such activities could help to serve as a buffer  against mental health problems.

There may not be able to attend sports clubs like they once did but you can encourage physical activities outside. They may not be able to attend any educational events, but now most are being offered online as an alternative.

There may not be ideal and may not offer the same as traditional methods, but they are an option that is there to keep us engaged as much as possible. Maximize your children’s opportunities by encouraging them to do these things.

May Allah keep you and your family safe during this challenging time. May He guide you in supporting your children through any difficulties and see them through anything they face successfully.


6. Question

My teenager insists that Covid-19 isn’t real or isn’t a big deal. I am worried that his younger siblings won’t take this second wave seriously, putting themselves and others at risk of catching it.

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

There is much speculation out there about Covid as well as conspiracy theories in the same.

Such thoughts about the situation then influence the behavior of those who have such thoughts, such as not wearing masks. Regardless of whether this is true or not, your son’s behavior could easily influence that of his younger siblings which are perhaps even more concerning.

Try talking to him in a way that is on his level to help him understand. For example, if he genuinely believes its nothing to worry about, try to encourage him to see it from the perspective of those around him.

Those around him do believe it’s real and is scared of the consequences. How would he feel if he had shaken hands with someone with a serious, deadly contagious disease and had passed it into him unnecessarily and that the reason the person even got close and shook his hand without a glove was that he didn’t think it was real.

You might also encourage some empathy in that even though he doesn’t believe it, many people do and those that are elderly and more vulnerable are frightened forntheirnlives right now.

Remind him of his own grandparents and how he might feel if they got sick because someone passed on the illness because they neglected to wear a mask. He’d surely feel angry that they are sick when it could have been prevented.

Furthermore, you could put it to him that even if he doesn’t believe it, would it do him any harm just to follow the rules and wear a mask and wash his hands frequently whilst maintaining social distancing. It may be a bit of a struggle since its a new routine we’ve had to establish but it will not cause him any trouble to follow the rules.

Make clear his responsibilities and you concern about his behaviour. Remind him that he is the older brother and his siblings look up to him and that you are concerned about how his attitudes will impact on them.

Really take time to emphasize that he is now a responsible young man and his siblings look up to him and will want to emulate him. Emphasize that even if he does not believe it, he should please keep such opinions to himself.

It could be that as a teen, the reason for his own opinion is largely based on that of his peers. It is common for teens tonl rebel and go against the grain. This covid situation has been new rules being enforced for every one.

Teens do not like to be challenged like this on a normal day, so to place such strict restrictions on them at this age may also be calling for a rebellion expressed through disbelief in this case.

It may even be that in the inside he does believe it is real and is worried but because his peers say they are not then he is copying them in adopting the same attitude. This could be combated in the  same way tthat peer pressure is handled generally.

If you think this may be the case and you are comfortable to do so, you could speak to the parents of his peers and get their thoughts on the matter and if they are with you then all of you can work together to discourage their behavior, if not for the sake of themselves, but for other more vulnerable than them.

Otherwise, things like building his self-esteem will make it easier for him to make moves that are not in line with his friends because he will be less worried about the repercussions.

Hopefully something here will change his mind, or if not, at least change his behaviour so that he will comply with regulations even if he doesn’t agree with the reason why.

May Allah protect you and your family. May He guide your son on the straight path and may He reward your efforts.

Salam,

Question 7

Salaam, my daughter who is 23 has reached out to my husband and i about a man she wants to marry. this man is 13 years older than her, he is a divorcee and has a daughter from that marriage.

I feel like my daughter stabbed my husband and myself in the heart with this “proposal”. how dare she bring up such a person to marry, i cannot fathom it. as parents we believe this man is “unethical” and a “pervert” to want to marry my daughter.

My daughter suggested for my husband and me to speak to this man, but we refuse. from an Islamic perspective, this marriage is valid, but we are more concerned about the reality.

The reality shows that this man is divorced with a daughter looking to marry a young girl. What if he leaves my daughter, is possessive/abusive towards my daughter, and what if their future will never work out because of his background profile?

Why did my daughter choose such a person to marry? what went wrong with our parenting skills? please help us since my daughter is very adamant about marrying this man but we will never accept it. 


Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh sister,

As parents we always want what’s best for our children. Alot of the time out own previous personal experience can be very helpful in guiding them.

However, sometimes they don’t agree with this as has happened in this case with your daughter wanting to marry someone that you don’t want her to marry.

There is also time as parents where previous experience may taint our views and cause us to have unrealistic expectations for them too. It’s important that with big decisions such as marriage you think very carefully about these things.

As parents we may have an ideal view of how the spouses of our children will be so if they should come home with a proposal far off of our expectations it can be quite a shock. This is the time when reflecting on our own thoughts, expectations and experiences is necessary.

Id first ask in this situation for you to reflect on what the problem is with this man? Is he known to be of bad moral character? Does he have some kind of histo9that could be detrimental to your daughter? Most importantly, what is his religiousity like?

Is he committed to his Deen? These are questions you could explore with his own family and people who know him to get an idea of his character. When doing this, please try to do so without thinking of his age. The truth is, age generallynis not so much of a problem in marriage.

Someone could be younger but as mature as a man in his 40s as well as the other way round. The most important thing is his character. Your daughter is an adult and so for a man in his 30s to reach out can’t be classed perverted.

Also look at their behaviour together. Have they had much harm contact until now? Have then been engaged in one to one conversation without others present? If so, this could be more dangerour and perhaps more a sign of bad character and something to be more concerned about than his age.

This also gives some kind of indication about his character as a Muslim too. If they have restrained from contact until this point and this is why they are now reaching out to you then this is a positive sign.

You are very much taking a negative view that just because he is divorced with a child that means he must be an abuser. He may be quite the opposite and be the kindest man who will treat your daughter and bring her much happiness. Unless you have evidence to suggest he is a bad person and has abused in the past it is not fair to make such assumptions.

The most appropriate way to approach it such that you will not cause problems with your daughter is to agree to a meeting with him so that you can get to know him better.

If you straight out refuse, you may cause her to rebel and leave without your support. She has done the right thing to ask you rather than going behind you back like some people do.

If you agree to meet with him then not only do you get the chance to get to know him, but if you meet him and dislike him, then your opinion will be more valued by your daughter because you have made that effort on her behalf to support her and at least consider her feelings.

This might be something that is difficult for you both, but provides a solution that allows you all to have your say in a valid way with consideration for all involved. It may take a few meetings to get to know each other well enough to make a decision and to put across a stronger case in the instance that you don’t agree with him.

Meet the man with an open heart and mind and see him for his character rather than his age to make the best decision.

May Allah guide you and your daughter and may He grant your daughter a righteous spouse who will be good to her and you and will be the coolness of her eyes in this life and the next.

Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 | 09:00 - 10:00 GMT

Session is over.
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