Want your kids to fast?
Posted on May 06 2020
Alhamdulillah, Allah (SWT) has blessed us to see another Ramadan. Even during these trying times, we should remember that this month is a gift and a chance for us to reset, to gain forgiveness and spirituality, and to seek clarity. Even though we cannot attend our beloved mosques for Taraweeh Salah and gather with our friends and family to break our fasts together, the blessings of Ramadan are the same, and we should remember that the most important thing is worshipping Allah and remembering him.
One of the hardest things in Ramadan, of course, are the fasts themselves. With work, school, and other responsibilities piling up, it can often be a challenge, especially for our younger ones. But although fasting isn’t compulsory for children, it is Sunnah for them to practice so that they will be accustomed to it when they grow older, InshaAllah. Having them fast a couple times a week, or even just a couple during the month, depending on their age, has many benefits for both you and your child. It can also teach them to love the month of Ramadan, and to learn to love and welcome it each year it comes.
It is no secret that fasting is also a challenge for the younger ones. Since they are hanging out with us more these days, they are watching our every action with a closer lens. One good thing is that, these days, they see us fast and might want to copy us. Our protective nature might compel us to tell them they are too young and shouldn’t fast. But this is against what Islam teaches us.
It is our children’s right for us to encourage them and teach them to pray and fast.
Here are some tips, many from Sunnah, to help encourage your children to fast and to make the fast easier on them, so that they can enjoy this beautiful month and cherish it.
- Allow your child to be involved in preparing Iftar. Abû Hurayrah related that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: He who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. [Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Breaking your fast is the one of the best parts of Ramadan, regardless if you are a child or an adult. Everyone looks forward to Maghrib time so that they can eat Iftar, and children are no exception. If your child is excited about the food they will eat during Iftar, they will be more motivated to fast. Ask your child what they would like to eat, and let them pick foods that they like and would like to break their fast with. If they are able to, let them help out with preparing Iftar for the family. This is a helpful way to get them in the spirit of fasting so that they can enjoy and cherish the time of breaking the fast. Occasionally, you can also incorporate desserts your child enjoys, to reward them for their fasts.
- Come up with a rewards system. Positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage younger ones to fast. One good way to do this is to create a chart, and give them a number of points for each day they complete a fast, which can go towards a prize at the end of the month or an extra gift for Eid. You can also utilize this point system to encourage your children to engage in other important acts of worship during this month, like completing prayers and reading the Quran. Do not remove points if they do not fast, but rather give them points for completing fasts. You can also encourage friendly competition if you have more than one child, to get them to complete as many fasts as they are able to.
Allow them days to rest. Some children may be excited to fast, and will want to complete the entire month. Depending on their ages, it is important to give your children rest days, especially if they are younger and just starting to fast. This can allow them to reset and have energy to fast the other days. Don’t make them feel guilty for not fasting. This is especially important if your child isn’t used to fasting during Ramadan, to get them used to it, but not all at once. Giving them recharge will make it easier on their bodies to fast, InshaAllah.
- Always make sure they eat Suhoor or some type of breakfast. It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1923; Muslim, 1095. Suhur is vital for everyone fasting, no matter the age. Most of us can speak from experience, missing Suhoor makes fasting more difficult, and can make our bodies weaker and tired more easily. This is especially the case for children. Get your children to sleep earlier so that they have an easier time waking up. Make sure that their Suhoor is filling and nutritious, giving them energy boosting foods like fruit and nuts. For younger children, give them the option of eating breakfast in the morning and then fasting the rest of the day, if that is easier for them. You can also give them if your child missed Suhoor.
- Teach your child about the rewards of fasting. Rewarding your child with points and gifts for fasting is a good idea, but it is also beneficial to teach them about the bountiful reward that Allah (SWT) promises them. Teach them about the different rewards for fasting, such as good deeds, the forgiveness of past sins, and protection in the afterlife, and give them examples from Quran and Hadith. Try not to show them examples of the punishment for not fasting, but rather the bountiful blessing gained from fasting. One Hadith you can use is: "He who fasts Ramadan, due to iman and hoping for reward (from Allah) then his past sins are forgiven." - Al-Bukhari and Muslim.
- Give them light schedules and distractions throughout the day. It is easy to think about eating when you are not occupied, and this is also the case with children. A good idea is to give them things that they can do to distract themselves and get their minds off of hunger. Divide their schedule up into things that are productive and things they can do to relax, as well as trying to make their tasks fun and important. Make sure to not give them anything that requires too much physicality, like exercise, because those things can drain their energy. Productivity is important, but do not overwhelm them. Doing schoolwork and light chores can count as productive tasks, so let them complete them in moderation, and during the points of the day when they are the most active, like the early afternoon. Give them lots of fun activities to do that they will enjoy, like letting them play outside in the backyard and engaging in hobbies like drawings, reading, and more. Make sure to fill their time with acts of worship as well, like reading from the Quran and making sure they keep up with their prayers. Give them leisure time as well. Especially during the last few hours before Iftar, when your child gets more tired, allow them to engage in distractions like suitable television shows, board games, and toys for the younger ones. One Hadith reads: After that, we used to fast on this day, and we would make our children fast too, even the little ones in sha Allah. We would make them toys out of wool, and if one of them cried for food, we would give (that toy) to him until it was time to break the fast. Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1960) and Muslim (1136). Give your children time to nap or rest if they please, this can help them pass the day.
I pray that Allah blesses this Ramadan for each and every one of you as well as your children, and makes it easy on all of you. Take advantage of this beautiful month, use your time wisely and always remember to take care of yourselves. InshaAllah, we can make the best out of this Ramadan and use it to change ourselves for the better.