Indeed, children (who haven’t reached puberty) are among those exempted from fasting in Ramadan. But this shouldn’t stop us from preparing children for fasting during Ramadan. As children, they are eager to do things that adults do so we should use that eagerness to introduce them to the concept of fasting and worship in Ramadan. It might be hard for them to get used to the rigors of the month once they reach puberty but if we integrate them early it will be a much easier transition.
In this article, we are going to focus on ways to introduce fasting to our young and eager ones.
Children look up to parents and adults as role models, they are eager to follow in their footsteps. So when their parents and elders are fasting they are eager to emulate them. Irrespective of how old they are, get them involved in aspects of Ramadan that are not too daunting, like setting up the table for iftar, going for Taraweeh (sitting down when they are tired), reading the Quran and all other aspects of Ramadan that can make them feel a sense of belonging. We should encourage them not and not deter them from participating and this will ensure that the spirit of Ramadan is instilled in them from an early age.
It might be hard for your 8-year-old to fast the whole day, so what you can do is to let them fast sporadically. For example, you can urge them to fast from breakfast till lunch or from lunch till iftar or any other form of intermittent fasting that won’t overwhelm them. Then when it is time for iftar, let them feel like they have accomplished something special and that you are proud of them. That will put a spring in their step and encourage them to do more.
Reward them for their efforts
We all know how children are motivated when they realize that there is a certain reward for completing a certain task. Give them rewards and compliments when they complete a task no matter how little and still encourage them when they fall short. You can promise them a huge Eid present for completing certain targets during Ramadan or promise them a trip to their favorite place but whatever it is, make sure you keep that promise.
Take them to the Masjid
At the time for iftar, take them to the masjid and let them experience how people break their fast in the community. It might be a sensation that can make them realize that they are part of something great. That alone can make them fall in love with Ramadan.
Teach them the virtues of doing good deeds in Ramadan
Encourage them to do good deeds and tell them the virtues and rewards attached to each deed. If they know that are going to get something for doing a good deed, they will race to it because they have an incentive.
Give them a welcomed distraction
Children can easily get bored when they are doing a task, so make sure you keep them distracted and let them have a little fun. During the time of the Prophet (SAW), the women of the village of Ansar said they would make their boys fast and if any of them started crying, their mothers would give them toys made of wool to distract them (Bukhari). Also, make sure to strike a balance between pushing them too hard and letting them off too easy.
Change their habits
Most children can’t go without watching cartoons or playing video games a whole day. So as we adults are trying to rid ourselves of our bad habits we should also encourage children to do the same. Substitute the video games with the Quran and other fun but enlightening stuff like the stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them all) just to keep them interested.
Get them around their peers
One of the best ways children get motivated is when they see their peers doing a certain task. So parents should always get their children around other kids that are fasting. It might even be more effective than the other methods as children don’t want to be the odd one out amongst their peers.