Each year Muslims all over the world eagerly anticipate the arrival of Ramadhan. Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims everywhere abstain from eating, drinking and other physical needs to reap the rewards of this blessed month.
It’s no surprise that children are also excited about the arrival of this month. As parents it is our duty to teach our children about all five tenants of Islam including the benefits of sawam (fasting). Young children naturally want to do what their parents do, and may express an interest in fasting as well. Although children are not obligated to fast until they reach puberty, this can be an excellent opportunity to teach younger kids about the spiritual and physical benefits of abstaining. To supplement in greater depth the 99 Tips to Help Kids Fast During Ramadan, here are a few more tips to help introduce fasting to young children:
Teach Them the Purpose of Ramadhan
Fasting is all well and good, but it’s important that children understand the significance behind the act. When you show your children the purpose of the act and the rewards it will provide them with motivation to see it through. You want your children to pray, fast and observe the other tenants of the faith because they sincerely wish to please Allah and not just to please you.
Use the Gradual Approach
You want to instill in a desire to fast during Ramadan into the heart of your child, but it’s may a good idea to start them off gradually – especially if your children are very young. Some parents feel that young children who have not reached the age of puberty should not be encouraged to fast. I personally disagree. Introducing a young child to fasting can be as simple as allowing them to miss a snack, or meal as they get older. Children like doing what their parents do. They experience a sense of accomplishment from meeting a goal the same as you.
Create a Celebratory Atmosphere at Home
Make Ramadan a special time for your family. The goal is not necessarily to emulate other religious holiday celebrations, but there’s nothing wrong with making this time of year something that the whole family eagerly looks forward to.
Establish a few routines that over the years will become associated with Ramadan. For instance you could plan a huge suhoor (meal before sunrise) each morning complete with all the family favorites, prepare certain dishes/desserts for iftar (meal after sunset), or offer to host an iftar at the local masjid (you can even partner up with one or more other families) each year.
Parents can also make this time of year more special by assigning the children with a special responsibility to carry out during the month. For instance one child can have the task of waking up her brothers and sisters for suhoor. Another child can create a list of all the friends and relatives that you plan on buying Eid gifts for.
Praise Your Child for Her Efforts
So little Nadia wasn’t able to maintain her fast for the entire day? That’s okay, there’s always tomorrow, masha’Allah. Fasting can be challenging – especially during the first few days as your body becomes accustomed to a new eating schedule. For children it can be even more of a challenge. You can alwasy start them off gradually missing a meal and/or snack. Some kids feel ready to jump right into to fasting all day. If they are unable to abstain until sunset, they may feel disappointed.
Praise your child for the time that she was able to successfully abstain – even if it was only missing her mid-morning snack before lunchtime. It’s a start, and all accomplishments should be recognized.
Enjoy Stories about Ramadhan Together
There are some really wonderful books out there with stories about children celebrating the month of Ramadan. Make time this Ramadan to snuggle up with your children to enjoy any of these educational books:
Ramadhan, by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi
My First Ramadhan, by Karen Katz
Celebrating Ramadhan, by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith
Magid Fasts for Ramadhan, by Mary Mathews
Ramadhan: Islamic Holy Month, by Terri Dougherty
- Reflections for Ramadan and Eid 2011 Muslim Blogpost Series
- Fasting 6 Days Shawwal
- How to Earn the Blessings of Ramadhan When You Can’t Fast
- Audio Post: Muslim School Kids’ Morning Routine While Fasting
- Tips for Observing Ramadhan During Your Menses