Understand Your Children -Live Session

Question 1: female, 33

Questions the children ask about Islam and their race /nationality. I often cannot find the answers to those questions. As humans, we love belonging to something/group whether it’s religion or ethnicity, culture so on. It would be helpful if I learn some of the above. Inshallah.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

We all belong different groups and this is what contributes to our identity; who we are. There are multiple components to this, such as our roles within the family as a child, sibling, parent, cousin..and so on. These all define the types of things we do and how and with what type of attitude and responsibility.

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However, these are just a handful. There are many other components and of this race, culture and religion play such a huge role in how we even fulfil the roles mentioned just now. These shape our identity and to belong to groups within these categories provides a feeling of belonging which can be very comforting.

Sometimes, however there can be an element of conflict in this when for example there are clashes in the belief systems of different groups one belongs to. This can be difficult to manage as adults, but as children this can be even harder and more confusing. As a result, it is paramount that their surrounding adults support them with this and I believe this is essentially what you are asking about here.

Confusion can arise in a couple of primary ways; when there is conflict between cultural and religious beliefs, and when children are raised in homes where perhaps the cultural upbringing of one parent is different to the other.

In response to both sources of confusion, the key is to begin by separating them right from the start. So, for example, when it comes to the situation of having parents from 2 different cultures, the children need to be educated about these cultures separately so that they can appreciate them both without feeling that they necessarily have to affiliate with one or another.

This is important in shaping their identity in understanding that they can belong to both. Educate them about these different cultures and the history of each. Perhaps even encourage them to work on projects about the cultures, learning about food, dress and customs typical to these cultures. This sense of understanding will help to reduce the confusion whilst making it a part of who they are and feeling like they are a part of it.

Likewise with Islam. Educate your children about Islam separately, outside of the context of different cultures. Unfortunately, there are lots of cultural Islamic practices that are haram, so it is best to stay away from these things. If they are educated about Islam from an objective stance, outside of cultural determinants then they will have the true understanding of what Islam is from the start and will be able to determine for themselves which practices that are determined by culture actually fall outside of the fold of Islam.

To learn and understand Islam on its own, outside of such contexts, they can develop knowledge and love for Islam in the correct and most appropriate way. In addition to this, further confusion may arise when living in a country that doesn’t practice Islam, when you are a Muslim. For children this can be difficult, however, this is where it is important to establish strong faith in the home through education and togetherness within the Muslim community locally.

This does not mean that they need to separate themselves from everything to do with the culture in which they live, but to have a firm understanding and connection with Islam will help them to establish what’s acceptable and not from a young age.

As their parent and educator, if you have a continuous open discussion about Islam, then it will also make it easier for them to come to you openly and ask questions if and when they arise, as they often may do at school. Knowing that you are their as their support will be beneficial in helping them to get through such challenges.

In both cases, you don’t need to make a big deal about how one culture is different from another, or how some cultural practices are different from Islamic practices, but just simply don’t draw attention to them as they learn about each of these things independent of one another. This can also help to reduce any confusion and discrepancies that may arise if they were to be taught for example, culture and islam together.

They should also be made to understand that you can belong to more than one of these identities. You can belong to the different cultures that their parents, grandparents and so on are from, but they can also belong to the religious identity of being a Muslim too, even if they live in a non-Muslim country. This is ok, and they should be proud of this.

May Allah reward your concern to support your children in some of the difficult aspects that come with growing up and findings ones identity. May He guide you to do so in the way that is most pleasing to Him.

Question 2

Salam Aleikom. My only daughter is 12 years old, menstruates for 3 years. She has been missing her father, yet due to the psysical abuse of him towards her when she was young, she has difficulties accepting him. She is a very clever child but has such enormous aggressive eruptions, she has such a huge hatred towards her dad – and so towards men in general – that I cannot handle.

This unfortunately effects the relationship with her two younger brothers. We go to child psyvhologist, she has prescribed one medicine for my daughter in case the situation gets really bad, but I do not let her take other medicine. I do not see much change since we go to therapy  for a year, unfortunately… Her dad did not sexually abused our daughter, but spanked her for everything.

We divorced in 2017, He lives in his country Algeria, and I live in Europe in my own country with the children. He does not really care of us. He suppse to see them every second week, but since he does not live in the same country…He remarried. My ex abused my elder son as well, the youngest one does not even know him.

Nonetheless, my daughter continuously fights with them, and this creates hatred from my sons towards her as well. She scolds them for example if they do not arrange their stuff. I raise them alone, so financially we are not in the best situation.

I attended a bereavement therapy course which helped me a lot, but I really do not know what else to do with my daughter, how to help her process wht happened to her, and how to help her have a healthy look at men, and a healthy relationship with her brothers. Thank you.

Wa alaikum salaam wa rahamtulahi wa barakatuh sister,

Raising children alone is hard task as it is. May Allah reward all your efforts. However, when at least one of the children presents with additional needs this can make things even more tricky.

Its not uncommon for children to behave in the way that your daughter is at this age anyway, regardless of whether there is any abuse or divorce within the family. However, having gone through such difficulties at such a young age can add to the normal challenges that children of this age face. Alhamdulilah that you have been able to take her to a psychologist, although I understand that you are not keen on giving her medication to treat her psychological difficulties. This is ok.

It isn’t always necessary to encourage this, especially if you can get things under control without it. So, you might consider doing just this, try as much as you can to support her in getting her behaviour under control first and perhaps if things reach breaking point then you might consider the medication just as means to calm her down so that you can work on supporting her in getting herself together without the distraction of her aggressive behavior, so essentially, turning to it as a last resort if nothing else seems to be working.

It would seem, certainly on the surface, that she has developed this focus on being punished for not doing what is supposed to be done and since this is the way she was treated, this is the only way she knows how to treat others, namely her brothers.

If is possible for you to work on reversing this by focusing instead on the positives. So, for example, rather than focusing on and picmking up on when she does something wrong, instead focus on pciking up on when she does something right. This might even be rewarding her for simply not doing something.

So for example, if there is a situation where she would typically lash out and she doesn’t, notice this and reward her this. This does have to be a physical reward, just a simple bit of verbal praise that lets her feel good and lets her now she did the right thing. Continued reinforcement in this fashion will help her to snap out of focusing on picking up on negative things that her brothers might do and in time, trough a process of modelling she will start behaving in the same way she is treated, only this time, the focus will be on reinforcing the positives.

This is a process that will take time, especially since the focus on negatives and punishment has been present in much of her life growing up, but with persistence, you will see gradual changes in sha Allah.

In addition to this, It is also not unusual to see quarrels between siblings at this age, so any fighting between them could also just be a normal part of growing up too. However, as their parent, you can do somethings to also help promote healthy relations between them too. That is not say that this will eliminate any fights, but it will also help to develop their bond too and make you and them feel more comfortable round one another.

One simple way to do this is to encourage them to work together in a task for a joint goal, rather than in a task that may encourage further fighting. For example, playing games together could be a way to promote positive interactions, but at the same, can also be a task that could easily lead to competition and fights. However, doing something like working on a project together is a way to have them working toewards the same shared goal and therefore encourage cohesiveness between them.

Such examples might include making something in the kitchen, something fun such as cake and decorating it themselves, or otherwise, building something together, perhaps something topical and central to Islam. For example, with Hajj having just passed, in this case they might have working on a model of the journey of Hajj and this would be a learning task as well as a practical task that encourages cooperation together. You could do other similar such projects with them according to something topical, or something that you want to teach them about Islam.

Perhaps part of her difficulty with her siblings liew with being the only girl. With this in mind, don’t forget to encourage her to spend time with her girl friends, iseally those from the local masjid who she will be able to bond with and have here need met that are unique to those of a girl. For example, you say she has started her menstruation since 3 years ago and this is the kind of thing that girls of this age turn to their friends to discuss.

With no sisters in the house, perhaps she is feeling a bit lonely with no other girls her age to talk to. Ensuring she has this opportunity outside of the house will give her the opportunity to have these discussions and experiences that she may otherwise miss with in the home.

May Allah reward your efforts to support your daughter as well as your boys too. May He reward all your efforts to do so despite all the additional struggles you face. May He make the task easier for you and help you to raise righteous children.

Question 3

How to talk to my children about homosexuality and what is LBTQ. She is in her teenager years and the Pride took place just days ago. I know that Islam prohibits the act itself, but what about the feelings of these people? What can I tell my daughter that she does not become those Muslims who, with zero empathy, yell any time this topic comes up the “homosexuality is haraaaaam” and understands what is the healthy attitude of a Muslim towards this topic on the West? What is the healthy attitude, anyway?

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh,

This is a difficult, yet hot topic that must be addressed in the Muslim community, especially in the West to ensure that not only do our children not get led astray by such ideologies, but that they are able to live with it and respond appropriately too.

As Muslims, we know that the act of homosexuality is a grave sin and it is important that our children know this, even if it is a difficult topic to address. However, in its simplest form simply letting them know that only marriage between a man and woman is ok, and not between men and men and women and women.

This can be instilled from a young age without going into further detail. It perhaps wouldn’t be usual to discuss such things from such a young age, but when living in the West, it almost becomes a necessity because children are being taught about homosexuality in school from such a young age. As a result, we as parents, need to step in from a young age and make sure they understand from an Islamic perspective.

As they get older and experience the topic more, it might become more difficult, but this is where, as a parent, you can continue to provide the ongoing support needed. You might begin by helping them to understand in amore abstract way, suing examples that be easier for them to relate to. Talk to them about how we are all different, we all like different things, and we all like different people.

Our friendship circles are different because we get on with different people, usually because of shared interests. However, just because someone likes something different, it doesn’t mean that we need to treat them badly. Similarly, they probably go to school with Christians who believe Isa (AS) is God incarnate. As Muslims we do not agree with this, but it doesn’t mean that we treat the Christians badly because they have a different belief to us.

We don’t have to believe in the same as them and we can live peacefully alongside them, without conflict even. You can draw upon this as a lived example. Likewise with homosexuality, even though we do not believe this is ok, we don’t have to be mean to those who choose to take this path, we don’t even have to be friends with them, or talk to them even. We can leave them to do their thing without having any discussion about it.

These kinds of issues arise all the time with various topics, it is just that with the education system in the West pushing to normalize and even promote homosexuality, it has become a problem for us as Muslims, especially for those with children in school who are being exposed to this attitude. In fact, homosexuality is forbidden in most religions, so it is not a struggle only faced by us.

However, if we just educate our children correctly from the Islamic perspective then it makes the task a little easier and keep them away from any conflict regarding it. Like with anything else, the Islamic perspective encourages us to live peacefully with all different people without causing conflict or disobedience unless they are being encouraged or even forced to do something against Islam.

Of course, homosexuality is against Islam, but to know that it exists does not mean that we need to practice it ourselves, or even condone it, or be friends with those who take this path.

May Allah protect us and guide us and help us to raise our children strictly in the path of Islam without being influenced by deviance. May He reward your efforts to support your daughter in doing just this and may He make it an easy and successful task for you and us all.

Monday, Jul. 26, 2021 | 10:00 - 11:00 GMT

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