It’s Ramadan again, and I am sure there are many parents out there who are trying to get their children to fast for the very fast time. This can be a very exciting time for both the parents and the children as well as a challenging one. Since we live in Qatar, it is probably a norm for the children to see other children fasting when they are at school and in other places, too. This is bound to pique some interest in these children as well as the will to try their hand at fasting, but they may also be scared and wonder how they will survive without food and drink for hours on end.
That’s when the parents come in and help them get ready and prepared to fast by letting them fast for a few hours first, and perhaps, just on the weekends, and then gradually increase the hours till the child is ready to fast for the entire time duration between dawn to dusk. In this regard, it is up to the parents to be able to gauge the child’s ability to fast depending on age, weight, the weather/heat outside and the duration to start with.
Fasting is not obligatory in Islam till a child has reached the age of puberty, but most parents like to introduce their children to fasting between seven and nine years of age, to familiarise them with the concept of fasting during Ramadan. Though children between the ages of seven and nine are still very young and may not completely understand the concept behind fasting completely, as time passes, and they see their parents and those around them fasting during Ramadan every year, they will automatically want to be part of it all.
Since your child is fasting for the first time, it may be a little daunting. As parents, do not force your child to fast the whole day or make him/her feel bad if they want to break the fast before the time you have both selected.
The best way to introduce your child to fasting is to give them breakfast in the morning when they wake up (getting them up for Suhour may not be a good idea at this stage) to encourage them to fast until, say 12 pm. Let them get used to these few hours first, and then gradually increase the duration by about two hours every few days till they are able to fast till Iftar time.
With time and as your child and his/her body starts to adapt to staying hungry and thirsty for more than a few hours on end, you can introduce them to getting up for Suhour, and taking a meal with you to get them ready for a day of fasting.
Remember that, at this stage, fasting is not compulsory for the child, so it is important that you continue with the encouragement and reward your child for his/her efforts, no matter how small the duration of their fast may be.
It’s important that you make Ramadan feel like it's an exciting time in a Muslim’s life, otherwise, your child will not really be pushed about it.
The following are some of the ways you can make Ramadan more appealing to your child:
Before Ramadan actually starts, tell your child what Ramadan is, the history behind it, why Muslims fast, it’s importance and significance, and what the rewards are. Engage your child in a discussion and tell them stories about when you started to fast. Make it exciting and entertaining, so when Ramadan actually starts, your child is enthusiastic and ready to try fasting.
It’s a good idea to make an action plan with your child where you can decide on how many hours to fast, what kind of food they want to eat after breaking the fast, what they should do while they are fasting, which friends they want to invite during Ramadan, what rewards they should get for fasting, and so on and so forth. By involving your child, he/she will feel more excited and feel important.
By involving your child in meal preparations, he/she will not only keep busy but will look forward to breaking the fast with something he/she enjoys eating. Make sure to ask your child what he/she wants to eat and prepare that. This will keep your child excited and he/she will readily help you out in the kitchen preparing for that special meal.
Along with encouraging your child to fast, encourage him/her to also learn their prayers so they can offer them. Teach him/her about the five pillars of Islam and the importance of each pillar. Explain to him/her in an interesting way how fasting, prayers and the other five pillars make Allah happy and open the doors to Paradise. Explain to your child the significance of Paradise and doing good deeds.
Also, teach your child how to read the Holy Quran and explain the history and significance of reading the Holy Quran. Ramadan is a great month to start introducing your child not only to fasting, but to other facets of Islam as well. Make sure you use a language your child will understand easily and make it all as exciting as possible.
Though it is a great idea to introduce fasting to your child between the age of seven and nine, ensure that you take it easy on your child and continue to encourage him/her. Do not get upset if your child breaks his/her fast before the time you have decided on. Remember your child is still getting used to the idea of fasting and it will take some time. The more your child will practice, the easier it will become. Make sure you reward your child for trying, but don't push him/her too hard.
What do you think of these tips? Do your children fast? When did they start fasting? Was it easy? Do let us know your thoughts in our Comments section. Like and share the article - it keeps us going!
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