The Ramadan countdown has started. Some parents are absorbed with preparing for the feasts, some are worried about if their children could handle the fasting and some are just happy that Ramadan is approaching but are not really planning on how to prepare the children for it.
This month is a huge opportunity to embed a lot of values, beliefs and ethics in your child’s character so try to make use of it. I’m not just talking about the fasting and the prayers but about a well balanced, happy and successful child.
So, lets imagine we are children again, what do you see when you start hearing that Ramadan is coming?
“Mom is worried about cleaning the house and buying enough food… Dad is decreasing his work load and is worried about waking up early for work…nice decorating lights are being put upJ.. My parents are happy but I have no idea why… people look tired and angry.. a lot of people are coming over to eat huge quantities of food , everyone is happy but mom is really tired afterwards..”and a lot more images that they have to interpret in their own way. It is thus advisable in my opinion to open conversations with your children about what they observe in Ramadan, and how they process it.
This should be done through open ended questions and not through imposing what you see.
On the other hand, we as parents should also know, how our children can evolve all through Ramadan and how their character move more towards the positive side.
So, let’s take a closer look at what can be achieved;
Family Bonding and cooperation
All year around the family rarely gathers to eat, but in Ramadan, fathers are home for iftar and that is really a golden opportunity; I know that fasting is hard especially in this heat, but it would make a difference if you could just find it in yourself to smile and have some fun with your children. So, instead of them seeing a tired father coming home frowning and sleeps till iftar, and a mother who is screaming in the kitchen, the load can be shared by the whole family. You can all lay down in the same bed hugging or sharing the nice or funny experiences, then you all get up to prepare the food together.
Also prayers should always be as a family and I advise that you follow every prayer with a family group hug and kiss J or even a pleasant activity for younger children, like for example you can make it a habit that after every prayer, the children hide and the parents seek them out giggling and laughing all through. An activity like this will make them link praying to something fun and will also strengthen your family bonds.
Water the child’s conscience
Fasting is all about strengthening your relationship to your creator and doing something only God knows how well you do it. If you ask me what is the most important value to make sure your child absorbs, I would say, a deeply embedded conscience that is always aware that the divine power can witness whatever he/she does.
For some reason in our culture, we tend to over pamper children, we feed them in the mouth till they are six years of age and tie their shoes till they are ten!!
Well, Ramadan is an opportunity to give your child some responsibility, examples are; to wake you up for sohoor (a six to eight year old child can have an alarm clock and be responsible of waking up the family. In addition, to the normal chores of taking out the trash, setting the table or doing the dishes.
Children need to feel responsible for them selves and of others. For a significant boost of self-esteem, increase your child’s responsibility gradually and age appropriately. Amazingly, children are always fighting and asking for responsibility, just check if it’s safe and then respond to their desires.
Planning and organization
This is a skill a lot of parents complain that their children need. Well, here is your opportunity; why don’t you include your children in the planning or arranging for an iftar ? Using a notebook or a computer, have your child help you organize the event, starting from the guest list, the menu, the supermarket checklist and decorations. This is just one example but there are hundreds of opportunities in your daily routines, you just need to start including other members in your family, instead of carrying the whole burden alone followed by exploding or collapsing.
Resolutions and self-improvement
Every year, we do pray that we witness another Ramadan and hope we do better than the previous one. We always go through this self-revising process privately, but I think it’s very important to share this with your children. You will consequently model to them how you are working on improving yourself and your attempts to improve your religious practicing as well as your desire to get closer to your Lord.
The Fun factor
Your child will get a general impression of Ramadan from your facial expressions and your general mood. If every Ramadan, all your child can see is an angry, tired person, then this will be definitely linked to this month.
Again, I know it’s tough but at least make an effort to occasionally be a fun person; sing while you are cooking, smile as often as you can and greet everyone you see with a cheer from your soul.
If you attempt this, you will be surprised that you are happier, not necessarily less tired but a boost of energy will come your way. And maybe even you will start playing some family games together J
Just decide to be a fun parent and take charge of boosting the happiness level in your home.
A boost of piety
Every one of us experiences a boost of piety level through out this blessed month, but again we always keep it to ourselves. It is very advisable to communicate to your children, how good you feel after reading Koran, or praying taraweeh. Try to explain that magical uplift we all go through after any of these practices. Don’t overdo it and don’t miss explaining that it’s tiresome but the aftermath is certainly magical and very much worth the effort.
New healthy habits
Here is a golden opportunity to diminishing your child’s unwanted or bad habits without even saying you are. For instance juices instead of soda drinks will just be considered because they are linked to Ramadan. So continue with the karkade after Ramadan and they won’t even know it.
But you must also be careful not to create new bad habits like staying up late or watching too much television.
I prefer that children continue with their regular sleeping hours, you just need to work with them on how to fill their time during the day.
It is preferable that you train your child as young as six or seven to endure some hunger and thirst. This has to be done gradually and also with a lot of encouragement and motivation. If you feel your child is weak, get an approval from a physician or a nutritionist and you have to know that health is not related to how thin or full they are.
Your child will see you reading Koran daily which will model this habit for him. You can sometimes raise your voice to influence their verbal modeling as well. It would also make a big difference, if you do it in form of a family circle, where each member of the family has their turn. But again follow this activity by another favorable one, like for example drinking one of their favorite drinks or serving a tray of Ramadan sweets. Also make sure your face shows that you are peaceful and happy.
It is also advisable for the child to have his own moshaf for sense of ownership and responsibility.
For older children, you can have a child read Koran on the I-pad as an encouragement (if they are obsessed with the gadget, this will decrease the unwanted I pad stimulation and will link it more to reading). If they read for example a certain number of pages they can play a game for 5 minutes.
Teach your child to give out his toys and clothes to the needy and resist the urge to set him back when he chooses his favorite toy. Take him to give out food when you do so and when he feels hungry, remind him that this is how poor people feel all year long.
Humanity and why we are here?
I believe one of the most important reasons there is Ramadan, is that we need to be reminded every year, why we are here? What we are doing for others or even for humanity? Where are we going afterwards?
So be reminded not to forget amidst all the feasts and religious practices to talk with your child about the most basic factors of life as a Muslim.
Remember! installing ethics, values and good habits has to be at a young age.
Following are some links to inspire you with fun Ramadan related activities to do with your child:
My prayers and wishes for a happy and fruitful Ramadan to you and your family
Dr. Mona Youssri
Facebook page: Dr. Mona Youssri