How to Nurture Kids to Fast in Ramadan

One of my greatest concerns as a mom has always been instilling good Islamic values in my children. But how was I going to instil in them the love for Salah and Fasting and the Quran when I myself was struggling and imperfect? And it was a struggle after having kids…to find my focus, concentrate and silence my brain while having little toddlers tearing you in different directions all the time. Having kids has been the greatest distraction from the things that are important; but they are also the driving force behind me wanting and needing to come back stronger than before. It’s why I love Ramadan so much, since it gives one the much needed time out for reflection and growth. (Read my previous post on Ramadan here )

This year, Zaydaan turns 7 during Ramadan, which means questions are flying around as to whether or not we are going to let him fast the full month. When the older kids started fasting, my approach was very much trial and error. Their personalities were so different from each other which made their pace at grasping the concept very different too! For me it was probably one of the hugest hurdles to conquer, more especially with regards to my son since he was a child who was constantly hungry and had such a huge appetite. It was a daunting task as a mother to deprive a child like that of food, but it’s also made me more confident in my approach third time round. Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way…

Kids Learn from observation: We are our children’s first encounters with Faith which means they are observing, learning and copying us from a young age. It’s the same with fasting. Kids start to learn that there is something different about this month from young because they see a change in our daily pattern and routine. Even if we finding difficulty in it as young parents, they still sense that there is something special about Ramadan and soon they become curious and ask questions, and the way we answer will instil in them love for this blessed month and a desire to participate in it.

Let it be gradual: We don’t just wake up a week before Ramadan and decide that this is the year our kids will fast and then do everything in our power to get them through the month. NO! Fasting a full day should be a gradual progression. I remember, when the kids were young (about 4 or 5 ) we made them fast the last 15 minutes before the Athaan. This was a hard task for them as there eyes bulged at the iftaar treats on the table. But they eventually learnt to sit quietly and patiently. This was probably their earliest encounter with what it’s like to fast. As the years passed we gradually added different rules…like no luxuries till Maghrib, or only water and no juice or cooldrink, or only eat at meal times and no snack in between. Sometimes they couldn’t follow through with them the entire month and we didn’t force the issue. Eventually we progressed to a half day and then, when they were ready, to a full day. Each year they experienced a version of fasting that was eventually prepping them towards fasting a full day.

Each child is different : My eldest son and daughter are a year apart. This means that they do a lot of things together, but it also taught me that each child is special and each has a different strength. For my daughter, fasting was much easier than it was for my son. As a parent I knew that comparing my son to his sister was not going to be a good way to motivate him and that, in his case, it would have the opposite result. We let him get into it at his own pace and Alahamdulillah, he got there in the end. So I’d say it’s important that we don’t compare our kids to others. Each child is different and everyone progresses at a different pace. We should just be a vehicle to motivate and encourage them along the way.

It’s not compulsory:  In all the excitement to get kids to fast, we sometimes we forget that it’s not compulsory on them until they reach puberty. I find it especially prominent amongst the old Indian community. Cut the young ones some slack! We want them to look forward to Ramadan and so we should always approach it in young ones with compassion and care. Teach them, guide them, encourage them, but don’t force them. Kids have their whole lives ahead to fast. What’s more important is that we are instilling in them the concept of growth.

Make a fuss: Now that the kids are older, we are veering towards simplicity; but when they started out, I always made a fuss of things. Making something special of their choice or buying them a treat; it was something for them to look forward to at the end of the day.

Love this motivational chart that Zee got from school!

Set Goals :  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; sometimes people merely just starve their bodies of food and do nothing more. Although Zaydaan is only starting out, the older two have completed quite a few Ramadans already and although that was sort of the goal in the beginning, I realise that it doesn’t end there. So this year  I’ve implemented setting goals. We have sat down as a family and discussed the areas of our lives we wish to improve. Whether it was trying to be more punctual on salaah or striving towards completing the quraan or even just grasping one concept and living that out for the rest of their lives… even if they fall short, it will be a stepping stone towards improvement. It was important for me to share my own goals with my kids and to also confess my flaws. I want them to know that nobody is perfect and that we are all struggling to improve. I also want them to capture the true essence of this month; to strive to be better and to always allow themselves room to grow.

Right now, Zaydaan is laying next to me sick with the flu. I will take it as a sign that this might not be his year, but we will continue to encourage him to participate in whichever way he is capable of doing. And so we embark on this month full of hope to conquer our set out goals. We might have to battle our Nafs plenty as the month goes along, but I sincerely hope we all achieve what we’ve set out to do.

Ramadan Mubarak to all!
Thanks for reading.

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