Ramadan for children in non-Muslim countries can be a challenge. Children in general have a natural need to belong, to belong to a family, a school or to a group of friends. To be able to fit in and belong in a certain place or to a certain group, one feels one has to be the same, the same in attitudes, in habits, etc. During Ramadan, children cannot help but be different and this can be difficult.
The challenge lies in the fact that children may feel they will be risking rejection by being different. The challenge is also magnified when other children in the class start asking questions about the reason for fasting, and thus highlighting this difference and making Muslim children feel self-conscious and sometimes embarrassed.
Questions non-Muslim children ask Muslim ones may be about the reasons for fasting and whether the purpose behind fasting can still be achieved while eating some sweets or drinking a cup of water only or not. They may also ask questions on whether Muslim children feel tired or exhausted due to fasting and show feelings of being sorry for them. It is not easy for children to cope with such feelings and remarks, such situations can be challenging to young adults as well, not just children.
The question is how can we equip our children to help them deal with this difference?
1- Build Confidence:
Confidence is a child’s best defense against peer pressure. When we arm our children with a sense of self-worth, by highlighting their strength and determination to choose fasting and to continue fasting, we help them cope with outside pressures.
It is important to continually remind your child of how proud you are of his fasting and how Allah will reward him. This way we are teaching our children that self-worth and strength comes from the inside not the outside. This confidence will be a safeguard against peer pressure in general and will greatly help in Ramadan.
2- Direct the Child as to Whom We Should Please:
We need to teach our children that people are different and that it is normal to be different: to think differently, to have different opinions, different judgments on events, etc. To try to please everybody is impossible. To depend on people’s acceptance of us and their opinion of us in order to have feelings of self-worth and confidence will leave us feeing stressed and constantly worrying about people’s opinions of our thoughts and actions.
If a child learns to please Allah, and trust that by pleasing Allah people’s hearts will open to him, this will cut several worries down to just one: how can I please Allah?
3- Involve them with Muslims:
Involve your children with other Muslim children on a regular basis as this will give them a lot of support and strengthen their beliefs. They will feel that they are all in the same boat and encourage each other to stay in that boat, no matter how rough the sea becomes. Being together will give them the support and strength they need to face up to the challenges at school.