A Productive Ramadan With Young Children
(Article featured in Productive Muslim)
In Ramadan I try to follow my usual schedule as much as I can, but as we all know, the holy month does cause some lifestyle adjustments. We keep Ramadan simple with our children, by not being extravagant and keeping our meals easy. Ramadan only gets complicated when we focus on the worldly part of it, such as the eating and the gift-giving, instead of the essence of it, such as the ibadah and the reward. Here are a few methods we use to keep Ramadan special, yet simple.
Making Ramadan Special
When we discuss Ramadan with our children, we tell them how truly special this month is, and we allow them certain privileges, especially for our kids who fast. We try not to spoil them, but rather make the days of Ramadan memorable by allowing them to do things that they usually are not privy to in other months, such as:
They get to stay up one or two hours later at bedtime
We use our best tableware and eat with fancy crockery and cutlery
They are allowed to sleep in another sibling's room of their choice or have a slumber party on the floor in one big room in the house
They can, at times choose a favorite meal or dessert for Iftaar
They visit the masjid more often
These are few ways to make it special but more importantly we try to teach them the ibadah aspects of Ramadan in an easy and simple way. When they are young it should not be too strenuous or cause them undue hardship, it should be more of a training with good memory attached.
How We Explain Fasting
To teach our young children the important lessons of fasting, we explain to them that:
It is beneficial for our bodies as a cleansing
It helps us to feel the hunger of the poor and to sympathize
We do it solely for Allah to show our servitude
We learn honesty because only Allah really knows if we keep our fasts
Fasting teaches us self-discipline and kindness towards others when we stay away from food and all bad deeds
Explain the essence of Ramadan first, and leave such things like, waking them up for suhoor and keeping full days of fasting, for later years. At iftaar time, we teach them the sunnah of breaking with dates and water, the dua for breaking the fast and most importantly, to not over-indulge and be extravagant with food.
How We Introduced Fasting
I have learned that as a parent of many kids, I need to keep it simple, not to overdo anything or accomplish too much at one time. All our children decided of their own accord to attempt to fast, when we explained to them the significance of Ramadan and the lessons of fasting. Also, seeing their parents example, and the anticipation of staying up late and enjoying Iftaar together, was good initiative too. Children can amaze us by their fortitude, especially when they are impacted by a good talk. Our kids surprised us when we saw them abstain from their snacks and meals with no complaint to please their Lord, and all it took was sitting together and explaining the whys and the rewards. Two of our older kids are determined to fast the entire month, so we let them, our middle two kids attempt to fast some days, which is good training, and one of our little ones attempts to skip a meal or two sometimes.
What about Suhoor?
Truthfully, having all my kids get up for suhoor, can be quite hectic, especially as mommy ends up waking everyone up on time, preparing the breakfast and clearing up, whilst trying to fit in her own ibadah. To ease the strain at suhoor, we tell our younger kids to have their 'suhoor' at breakfast time. They still learn the lesson of restraint by fasting many hours. It is important for moms to remember (when they get frustrated by the lack of time for their own ibadah) that seeing to our family's needs is an ibadah too. When we wake everyone for suhoor, remind everyone to perform their salah, take care of our little ones, prepare iftaar, and fast while keeping one's patience and frustration in check, is big ibadah, don't forget!
Salah in Ramadan
An important aspect that we work on during Ramadan, is prayer. During the day, I welcome my children to pray with me, and in the evenings when daddy comes home, we pray as a family. Once again I keep this simple too. I stick to the aim of instilling a regular prayer habit into their lives, and to teach them the blessings of praying in congregation. My older kids know how to make wudhu and I tell them to make their wudhu immediately after every bathroom visit, so they don't delay the prayer time. My younger kids need more lenience, so they don't make wudhu yet, but try to keep-up with the habit of praying first. All of our kids, are taught the importance of having a clean body, clean clothes, and a clean and tidy area to pray.
We also teach them some important aspects of prayer such as, how to behave during adhan, being quiet and not fidgeting during their prayer, controlling their distraction, learning to concentrate, and also to find the qibla with a compass. Later they learn to memorize the iqamah, how many rakaats in each prayer, then slowly we continue teaching the positions and supplications. Don't do too much too soon, take it slow and steady and teach one thing at a time.
Charity in Ramadan
Our children learn that charity is not only about giving money, but also kindness through actions, deeds and mannerisms. During Ramadan we work on learning to smile more with one another, being patient with each other and spending more time helping little ones, the elderly and our neighbors. We ask them to control their arguments and pettiness with one another and to show tolerance and compassion towards their siblings. Guiding our kids and reminding them is a challenge for mommy, but keep the explanation simple and be an example yourself. Remember to accept the fact that they will make mistakes and need constant reminding, that's our job until they've grown! Start by teaching them to smile more, greet one another with true feeling and warmth, call their grandparents, uncles or aunts, write letters or draw pictures for mailing to loved ones, show better table manners, be extra clean, or make homemade treats and share with neighbors and family. Teach charity in all its forms.
Teaching Quran and Sunnah in Ramadan
My young kids listen to Juz Amma on computer, CD or on an mp3 player. My older kids are encouraged to read the Quran daily. We have many moments of reading together, or I ask my older kids to read stories to their younger siblings from Islamic story books. Daddy will sometimes find an Islamic Quiz online and quiz them in the last hour before Iftaar. They compete for points and they love the challenge, while learning a lot, I notice. We also listen to Islamic books on cd, by authors such as Maryam Sinclair, Khurram Murad and Noor Kids. This also frees-up some mommy time to do ibadah or preparations, while the kids are engaged in blessed moments.
Love and Mercy in Ramadan
In Ramadan we talk to our children about Allah's Love and Mercy. We point out all the things that Allah (SWT) has given us, and we explain to them how everything we have, from our toys to our good health is from Allah (SWT) Alone. We tell them about His infinite Mercy and how he forgives us over and over again for our sins. Our kids are encouraged to show mercy towards one another by forgiving their siblings when bothered, showing love to one another and appreciating each other by pondering a life without one other. They can do a role-play or put on a play for the family for reinforcement.
We also observe nature a lot in Ramadan, because when our kids inspect the life of a tiny insect, they realize how truly Great Allah's Creation is. Science is a beautiful way to teach children to love their Creator as science causes awe and amazement when one learns all the details that make up the cycle of life. Children come to realize how truly Magnificent Allah is, by His Creations!
In conclusion, try not to overwhelm yourself with trying to do it all in one Ramadan. Take small steps and use your judgement on how much you want to accomplish this Ramadan. Children learn quickly through repetition and reinforcement. Rather teach one thing well than many things too fast, too soon. I hope that sharing some of my Ramadan tips will help you have a productive Ramadan with your children.
Ramadan Mubaruk to you and your family from Muslimommy!