THE HOLY MONTH of Ramadan is upon us. And for many families, this will be the first month of Fasting for some of its youngest members. Allah says in the Quran:
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah 2:83].
Learning the ins and outs of Fasting is an excellent way for parents and children to bond while fulfilling our Islamic duties. Kids who are fasting for the very first time have a great opportunity to train their minds and bodies for a lifetime of Fasting.
Parents, especially mothers, can make their child’s very first Ramadan a resounding success. There are several ways that children can also get involved to get off to a running start this Ramadan—and for countless Ramadans to come.
How Parents Can Help
The Reason for the Season
Children need to know why Muslims fast. It’s not simply enough to say we fast “just because.”
- Children need to know that fasting is something that has been decreed for God-guided people (“muslims“) throughout the ages and that only Allah Almighty knows the complete wisdom behind it.
- Parents must also explain the great rewards that can be earned by fasting, on the one hand, and things that invalidate the Fast, on the other.
Children should also understand that there are great health benefits achieved through fasting. There have been innumerable scientific studies conducted by scientists—including non-Muslims—that have proven that fasting is beneficial to our health. Parents can do some research on the health benefits of fasting and share it with their child.
- One of the health benefits of fasting is that it gives the digestive system a chance to rest. The digestive system works non-stop around the clock all year long and fasting provides a much needed break.
- Another benefit is that fasting lowers the blood sugar and cholesterol, which is vital for someone suffering from diabetes or obesity.
Sit with your child and make a list of all the health benefits of fasting. Use the power of the Internet as a resource.
Create “Dry Run” Fasts Before Ramadan Begins
It might be difficult for your child to begin fasting, for the first time, during Ramadan. The fasting day is long and kids want nothing more than to succeed as they begin to observe this command from Allah.
Parents can help train their child to fast by preparing some test fasts that last only for a few hours every other day. In the weeks prior to Ramadan, increase the hours so that your child is fasting almost a full day. By the time Ramadan commences, your child will be better equipped to tackle his first fast and those that follow for the remainder of the month.
Kid Gloves Work Best
When teaching your child to fast for the very first time, parents must exercise great patience. Your getting angry when your child complains that he is thirsty or your becoming irritated when he says his stomach hurts will only hurt his self-esteem.
- Instead, treat your child with kid gloves and sympathize with him. Most of us can remember what it was like to fast for the very first time and can empathize. Share your first fasting day story with your child and let him know that you felt the same way. Tell him how you overcame it and were able to finish the fast.
- You can also distract your child so that he forgets about his pangs for food and drink—with a small toy or another activity to keep his mind engaged.
Recognize Your Child’s Effort
Reinforce your child’s success after each fasting day is complete with positive words of encouragement. Insist that every member of the family congratulate him on a job well done and keep those accolades coming. By doing so, your child will feel less awkward each time he fasts and will gain the confidence he needs to fast successfully in the future.
Minimizing his effort or pointing out his shortcomings will only discourage him and might make him view fasting as a burden.
What Kids Can Do
Prepare the Suhur Meal With Mom
It might be too tempting for kids to be in the kitchen when the ifṭâr meal is being prepared. However, kids can help prepare the Suḥûr meal, which is eaten just before dawn. The Prophet said:
Eat Suḥûr. Indeed, there is a blessing in Suḥûr. (Bukhâri and Muslim)
Since your child will be preparing the meal, keep it simple. Fruits that can be peeled with the hands, such as oranges and bananas, are a great choice for Suḥûr. Simple sandwiches, like peanut butter and jelly, are also a perfect choice that kids of most ages can handle preparing on their own.
Best of all, your child will so look forward to waking up in the middle of the night to observe Suḥûr that he will also wake you up to ensure that you do not miss this Sunnah deed.
Engage in Worship Throughout the Day
Kids can reap the benefits of Ramadan by engaging in acts of worship such as prayer or reciting thikr, or remembrance of Allah. Even young children can get in on the act by learning short duʿâs or listening to a Quran recitation.
Teach your children—now—not to waste time on idle pursuits, especially during the auspicious days and night of Ramadan, and instead spend their time wisely. Have your child designate a quiet spot in the home, preferably not a room that is full of distractions, where he can go and worship without disturbance from younger siblings.
Create An Act of Charity
The Prophet was the most open-handed during Ramadan. Teach your child to follow this Sunnah by creating his own charitable project that involves the whole family. Instruct your child to formulate his own idea and then present it to the family.
Older children can likely draw or write their thoughts on paper. Younger kids might just come up with a small idea that parents will have to help cultivate.
Insist that the act of charity must be carried out before Ramadan ends. Give your child some ideas to whet his creative juices, such as hosting a food or clothing drive in the neighborhood.
The beauty of creating his own act of charity is that he will want to repeat it every Ramadan, thus creating his own annual tradition.
Create Islamic Crafts
There’s nothing like handicrafts to keep your child’s mind off his growling stomach. Kids can spend part of the day creating small toys out of “found” or recyclable objects.
Suggest Islamic themes to keep in line with the spirit of Ramadan. Your child can create a model of the sacred Ka͑ bah out of Popsicle sticks or create a charity jar, to collect loose change for the needy, out of an old plastic milk jug.
Another great idea is to make a bunch of colorful handmade “Get Well” cards to send to sick children in the hospital. Your child will enjoy making something worthwhile and the fasting day will go by a bit smoother through crafting.