Kids who are fasting need to be kept busy as they tend to count down the time until iftar
Photo – blog.hautehijab.com
Johannesburg – Ramadan is an important month in the life of a Muslim. The virtues of this blessed month are taught at an early age, so children fully appreciate it when they grow older.
The first step is helping children understand why we fast. Often, we hear kids complain, “Why do we have to do this?” or “Why is this necessary?” and unfortunately, the response is, “Because I’m telling you to”. The problem with this approach is that if children don’t see a purpose in it, they won’t have the motivation to do it.
A way to avoid them losing interest and motivation is by explaining why fasting has been prescribed to us and who has prescribed it to us, said Sakina Dolamo, certified relationship, and life coach.
“Kids see you, the parents, as the main provider and then the relationship that you have with them is how they will eventually understand what Allah (SWT) does. You introduce the idea to them that ‘it’s not me who’s behind treating you, it’s not me who is behind looking after you but everything that I do is through Allah (SWT) permission’. Then start explaining who Allah (SWT) is.”
Once children have that understanding of who is in control and in charge of everything, it becomes a simpler task to explain why one needs to fast and pray salaah.
“Then you can slowly introduce Ramadan and salaah and tell them this is what Allah (SWT) wants from us since He is our provider, He is our creator and so on and so forth.”
It is important to have the correct foundations in place. Giving your children the right introduction to fasting is essential for keeping them on the right path. What children learn when they are young is what they keep with them. Having the erroneous belief about why they are fasting can be detrimental as they grow up.
“If you introduce fasting as something that will create a strong relationship between you and Allah (SWT), it’s what they will take to adulthood, but if you introduce fasting as wanting to feel what poor people feel like then later, they will be like ‘I don’t really want to feel like this’. They won’t relate Ramadan to Allah (SWT) and the relationship that must grow between them, and Allah (SWT) won’t grow.”
Children learn by doing. Studies have shown that students retain 75% of a lesson when they learn through hands on activities compared to 10% through reading. That drops to 5% when it is taught through a lecture. It is vital that you let them get their hands dirty and help you around the house. If they are too young or mischievous to help you prepare iftar then Dolamo suggested heading to the store and getting some arts and crafts.
“Kids are practical, they are visual. Instead of going out and buying decor, get your kids involved. Get some colour paper, some glitter and let them get creative and crafty. Creating Ramadan stars and moons and things like that. Let them feel that Ramadan is part of them and not something that is happening to them.”
Another way to get them involved and excited is by rewarding them for keeping their fasts.
“When they are fasting, have some rewards for them. Be it a small chocolate or money but just be creative about what you can give them as a reward for fasting. For adults we understand the invisible rewards, the spiritual rewards but kids are not yet at the stage where they understand the spiritual reward, so you must give them typical rewards. Things that they can see then they will feel enthusiastic about fasting the next day.”
Children, like adults, can have a busy schedule during the week. They have school and homework and parents have work so there might not be enough time during the week to get them into the creative mood. In this case, the answer is simple, said Dolamo.
“On weekends reserve some time for some crafts that they can do … You can also do a countdown calendar. ‘I fasted today, I fasted on this day, I’ve been fasting for seven days.’”
Having time set during the weekend will have the children looking forward to the weekend while the countdown calendar will keep them excited till the weekend comes.
We live in a time that everything lands up on social media. Not everyone has the same lives so it is natural that some families will have decorated their homes in a better fashion, and this can get us down, warned Dolamo, but we should take inspiration from them as long as the decorations are not wrong or cause a burden on your finances.
“It’s important not to compare yourself but to be inspired and see what I can do to celebrate or welcome the month of Ramadan and keep the spirit going. With anything there is moderation. If in their celebration and welcoming Ramadan they don’t forget the essence of Ramadan, I don’t see anything wrong.”
It is also important that we don’t fall into the trap of overdoing the decorations trying to compete with other celebrations. This can be an easy trap to fall into while we are scrolling through social media.
“Today there’s a lot of trying to compensate for what non-Muslims have because if you look at Hindus or Christians, for their holidays they go all out. As Muslims we need to be careful not to be copying what others are doing. Get some inspiration but not completely copy what they’re doing and as well, do things in moderation. And do things from a place of understanding.”
Ramadan is also a month of kindness, generosity and giving charity. Parents should use this month to instill these qualities in kids, said Dolamo. This can be done in several ways from letting your children donate items of theirs to an orphanage, creating a charity chart for them where you give them money for fasting and then ask them to donate half to charity and giving them tasks to do something kind for their classmate.
“They can build on this as they grow up and as adults it can become second nature. They can say that ‘I grew up doing this so I’m excited about Ramadan. I grew up doing kind acts so kind acts are second nature to me. Just remind them about overall beauty that they can carry with them out throughout their life and not just during the month of Ramadan.”
Another fun thing you can do during the night is take your child out to see the moon. The month starts with the sighting of the new crescent moon and by looking at the moon every night, you can teach your kids the phases of the moon.
The object for parents should be to instill this excitement into their kids for Ramadan. Once they have that, they can then slowly teach them all about the blessed month. The method that you use to instruct your children will end up being the method they use to teach theirs. It is therefore wise to use love and understanding to help them learn all about this great month and let them pass it on to their kids with such love.
Maryam Mkwanda spoke with Sakina Dolamo, a certified relationship and life coach about instilling love for Ramadan in your children: