Advice to moms of young children during Ramadan
Mothers are at the center of many traditions and celebrations in life. Moms plan, organize and execute birthday parties, school events and Eid gatherings. Mothers also pass on family traditions to their children. We spoke to three mothers of older children who generously shared their experience of introducing and including their children in Ramadan preparations and celebrations.
In this first post Huda talks about how she wants to teach her children about the true meaning of Ramadan. Huda is a homeschooling mother of two preteens. Her family is a mixed culture family.
How did you involve your children in Ramadan when they were little?
They would help set the table for iftar and they would make Eid goody bags. They would sit next to me for a few moments during every prayer time.
What are your best memories of Ramadan when your children were young?
Making the Eid goody bags. The children learned how to divide and sort through candy, how to tie strings and make ribbons. They also learnt how to trace out the words ‘Eid Mubarak‘ on the cards. I’d let them choose the color scheme. They felt so proud of their contribution.
The children would assist me in sorting and packing Ramadan care packages. They gave these with their own hands to the local cleaners, gardening staff etc. We also delivered groceries to needy families and my kids would be reminded of how much they have in comparison to others.
Sometimes, I would take them to the mosque for the night prayer. It was a great way for them to see others, praying just like them. Also, we’d often find old ladies who gave them candy!
They each also had their own Sadaqa or charity tree, and still do. They do an act of charity every day and when it’s done, they put that leaf on the tree. By the end of the month, the tree is in bloom. It is a great way to visualize consistent effort. When they were younger, it was a lot of repeated acts (e.g. smile at someone). Now that they are older, they have acts such as “prepare iftar meal for a neighbor”.
What advice would you give your younger self or young moms today about celebrating Ramadan with young children?
Do what’s feasible. Don’t feel pressured to do what other moms are doing. I couldn’t take my kids for every night prayer–that would distract me from my own worship and tire me out. So I took them a handful of times. Same with the goody bags. Many mom’s will bake cookies and go all out. I just used simple paper bags that the kids would scribble or paint over and I used packaged candy. The month is about worshiping and connecting with God, not about showing off for others.
Also, keep meals simple. It’s okay to order take out this month. You don’t need to stand over a hot stove, moments before iftar time frying up samosas. That’s not worship.
If you have babies and you can’t stay up at night worshiping God, please don’t. Find moments in your day to pray. Change your intention. Remember: it’s not the five prayers, fasting and giving charity that’s worship–worship is also taking care of your family, community and your health.
Your children won’t be so little and needy forever, so give yourself a break.
How has observing Ramadan changed over the years in your family?
We stayed at home a lot more when kids were younger. Now, they can accompany me to the store and purchase items for care packages and goody bags themselves. They prepare and distribute meals with other organizations. They can sit in a mosque without getting bored! They pray and fast themselves so they set their own mini goals during this month, as I do. They love making their goal checklist. They help out a lot with making meals etc. They still love decorating their Sadaqa tree!
What would you like your children to take away from their childhood experiences of Ramadan?
It’s a time to reflect on all the good that’s been given to us. To take care of our body and be reminded that we only need a few morsels of nutritious food to keep our backs straight. Care for the community. This month comes once a year, kind of like a boot camp. It comes to remind us of a better way to live so we can sustain good habits until next Ramadan.
– – –
Next week we interview another wise mother. She will share her fond memories of Ramadan celebrations when her children were young. Don’t forget to come back to read her thoughts on how to focus on what’s really important.
Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.