Ramadan is the most pious month for Muslims where fasting, religious penance and righteousness are observed. It is a time for reflection, self-awareness and expressing gratitude for all you are blessed with.
For children to understand concepts of Ramadan, may be difficult or confusing. However it is important to inculcate values of tradition and culture in our children as soon as possible. Non-Muslim children should be encouraged by parents to learn more about their country’s culture and understand customs or rules such as why we do not consume food or drink in public during daylight hours or the importance of being sensitive to the feelings of their Muslim friends observing a fast.
Do not be rigid or forceful
Explain the importance of fasting to your child, let them observe the routine you follow during the month and encourage them to get involved. Allow them to try and fast through maybe half the day or on a single day during the weekend. Getting them involved in prayer time or during morning Suhoor will give them a ‘grown-up’ feeling and they will be fascinated with traditions and love getting involved. The idea is to interest them and show them the reasons behind why we follow certain customs. Engaging them and making them a part of your Ramadan such as reading the Quran with them, helping to set-up for prayer time, preparing dishes for Iftar and inviting family and friends will make them feel part of something special giving them a sense of responsibility towards the Holy Month.
Emphasize on virtues and values
If your child is too young to be able to fast or is having a hard time waking up early in the morning for prayers, your child can still be a part of Ramadan by helping them understand the moral principles this month signifies. It is a time to be kind to each other, donating to the less fortunate, showing self-control and will power, spending time with family and developing a sense of community while also being thankful. These are important life lessons that all children no matter their religion should learn through their lives to build up a healthy society. Help your children take-out their old toys and clothes and drive them to a shelter to donate them, show them the importance of being responsible and ask them to tidy-up, encourage them to share their food (Iftar) with their friends (Non-Muslims) and organize family and communal gatherings where adults take up the responsibility of reading mythical stories, or passages from the Quran while educating and engaging children.
Inculcate a sense of pride
Sometimes, children get shy to share religious beliefs they have been taught with their friends who may be different, especially when they have not been explained the ideas behind these traditions. Give your children a sense of ownership over their beliefs and let them be equipped to answer any questions others might have about their customs. Let your child feel secure about these ideas so that they are excited to share their traditions with their peers or neighborhood. This will truly give them a sense of self; it is an important milestone for children to be proud of their roots and culture.
Informing your child’s teacher
In order to make sure your child is not subjected to teasing or made fun of by peers around them, it is a good idea to let your child’s teacher know if they are following any Ramadan traditions and make them aware of any changes in your child’s routine. Sometimes, the teacher herself might not be fully aware of these practices so help them understand the importance of it to your child and you. Your child’s teacher can also help by encouraging your child to conduct a session about Ramadan for their friends (show and tell), narrate stories or show pictures to their class.
Show self-control and discipline
As a parent, it is your duty to teach your children about their traditions and help them understand their culture. Children will imitate what they see, so if you are able to show a strong sense of importance for the month of Ramadan your child will pick up on it. We cannot only preach and expect our children to learn, children learn through example and imitation hence show them the significance and high regard this month holds and they will soon reciprocate the same feelings.
Be patient while helping your child through the month of Ramadan, it is the lessons they learn now, that will stay with them through their lifetime. Equip them with tools and right values and they are sure to make you proud.
- Sanobar Mistry is a published journalist and currently a kindergarten teacher in Dubai