The holy month of Ramadan, which is the ninth’s month of the Islamic Calendar, is a very special time for all Muslims around the world. It is when they observe fasting from dawn (just before the Fajir starts) to dusk (the maghrib entrance time). It is customary to have the morning meal Suhur before the Fajir prayer and the evening meal Iftar to break the fast at sunset. During Ramadan, these two meals substitute the traditional three meals of the day. During fasting, Muslims must abstain from things such as food, drinks, smoking and other indulgences, including sex. Fasting during Ramadan is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam and an intensely spiritual and sacred time. If you have children who are about to experience their first Ramadan fasting, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for to practice during the sacred month.
- Explain the Significance of the Holy Month
It is easier to get your children to fast without much protest if you explain the religious significance behind it. Take time to tell them why they should fast and answer all their questions regarding the specifics of the practice. Children will also be more motivated to follow practices when they understand why they are expected to perform them instead of simply being told to do it. They are also most motivated by your commitment and devotion and learn from your actions more than your words. Therefore, allow them to understand the seriousness of the holy month and let them take pride in following you.
- Encouragement and Motivation is Key
Constant motivation is what keeps children going at all tasks, and the same applies to fasting. Celebrate all the little victories to motivate them to continue and reward them at the end of the fast to show your appreciation. To make the long fast worth it, you can cook them all their favorite meals or give them anything they ask for in the evening after breaking the fast for Iftar. You could also start the day with a Sahur of their choice before the fasting begins. Regardless of what they ask for, ensure you also add other foods that will keep them full for as long as possible into the day. Taking them out for Iftar is another thing they can look forward to during the day as fasting starts to become a bit tough. Tell them how well they have done so far, and it is only a few more hours before their treat.
- Keep Them Occupied Throughout the Day
Boredom often makes us hungry; therefore, if you find your children struggling to fast because they have nothing to do during the holidays, keep them occupied, so time flies faster. Have a range of activities planned out for them that don’t consume too much energy. Arts and crafts work well or you can allow them to play video games to keep them distracted. Movies and TV shows are also good ways to keep them distracted as long as they don’t have a habit of eating while watching TV. If they have school, then send them to sleep once they are home and wake them up before its time to break the fast.
- Eat the Right Kind of Food.
Eating right can go a long way in helping children stay focused on fasting. Avoid giving them too much simple carbohydrates such as sugary treats that make them hungry in a very short time again. Instead, make them eat plenty of protein and healthy fat rich foods along with fibres that take a longer time to digest. Add plenty of thick milk, beans, chickpeas, cheese and a variety of foods to the morning meal to keep them full for as long as possible. If you are allowing them to eat windows because they can’t maintain a full day fast, offer them healthy snacks such as dark chocolate, whole grain snacks and foods with lean fats that give plenty of energy for a long time instead of simple sugars that run out quickly.
- Expose Them to All the Different Aspects of Ramadan
Ramadan is not only about fasting but also an excellent time to inoculate values in children. Ramadan is a month of giving and sharing with others and the less fortunate. There will be many Muslims out there fasting but are unsure of where their Iftar meal will come from; offering Iftar to as many in need as possible is one way to cultivate generosity and gratitude for the blessings your children have in their lives. Ramadan is also about unity as everybody, including family and friends, gather together during Suhur and Iftar to eat and pray together.
- Don’t Force it on Them
If it is your child’s first time to fast during Ramadan, it will definitely be difficult for them, and unless they choose to follow you out of will, it’s best not to coerce them into fasting. Even if they appear to be struggling or start showing signs of weakness, you could call it off. The best way to begin would be to start with half-day fasts. Offer them light snacks such as dates, dark chocolates or fruits so they will feel fuller without becoming hungry again in two or three hours.
- Avoid Sugary, Spicy and Salty Foods.
Giving children high sugar foods will give them a boost of energy instantly but will then make them feel weak and hungry after a short while. Spicy and salty foods can cause excess thirst, bloating and indigestion; therefore, avoid them as well. Limit their foods to proteins, healthy fats and fibres.
- Don’t Compare Children.
Do not compare your child with their sibling or other children if they find it difficult to fast during Ramadan. Not all children are the same and fasting is not a competition as to whom can stay longer without eating. Even if your child cannot fast the whole day, encourage them to eat and try again on another day or next year when they are older.
- Don’t Lose Patience or Get Angry.
It is easy to get worked up over trivial things when you are hungry; therefore, the holy month of Ramadan is a perfect time to practice patience and to forgive. This applies to children as well, teach them to be patient throughout the day and make it a habit in the long run.
- Avoid Vigorous Activities
Since vigorous activities burn off too much energy, it is best to avoid them during Ramadan, so your children won’t feel too hungry.
What To Do if You Are Pregnant
Many pregnant women find themselves in a dilemma when it comes to fasting during Ramadan, as pregnancy is a time when nutrition is of the highest importance. It is best to consult your doctor before deciding to fast, even for shorter periods of time, especially if you have other pregnancy related issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems or kidney infections. Many women who are exempt from fasting during Ramadan make up for it at a later time when they are able to fast. Scholars also suggest pregnant women who are not able to fast to donate to charity instead and offers meals to those in need during Ramadan.
Remember to take it easy during while you are fasting and maintain patience. Ramadan is a time to cultivate virtues and practice faith, learning to forgive, be good and patient along with the all other religious obligations.