Friday, August 26, 2011

Slowly learning to Fast

With the end of Ramadhan nearing, I realize that this year truly has been the first of many. Our first month in a new town, our first Ramadhan alone and the first time my first-born attempts to fast. My son Yousof will be 6 years old by the end of the year. This year, we decided, was a good age to start training him to fast.

Believe me, I did not have high expectations. He is still very young (though I do remember that my parents began training me at roughly the same age). Alhamdulillah, he was super-excited about it. Credit to his teachers at Educare IIUM Kuantan for getting the kids excited about learning to fast, to my parents and his father for encouraging him. I also tried to support him as best I can.

When the first day of Ramadhan came, I had my sahur alone, and woke him up around 6am for his sahur. He was slightly upset that I did not wake him up before Fajr because he already knows that fasting begins after Fajr. I explained to him that it was fine, because he was still a child, it was not compulsory for him to fast therefore he was allowed to have his sahur a little later than me. He accepted this but requested to sahur with me, for the days to come. So from the next day, we would Sahur together, but I would always wake him as late as possible (around 20 mins before Fajr) and make sure that he ate adequately and had a mug of hot beverage (hot chocolate/Milo). I allowed him to extend beyond the call for Fajr prayers and waited until he was satisfied and finished eating. Then we would perform Fajr together.

Alhamdulillah ever since the first day, Yousof has managed to fast very well. When I pick him up from school, there is just over two hours left before Maghrib. He usually spends this time playing with his younger siblings or watching television while I prepare Iftar and dinner. I usually cook because my children are fussy eaters so they often do not like food from the Pasar Ramadhan. We stop by the 7-Eleven on our way back from kindergarten so that Yousof (and his non-fasting siblings) get to choose a simple treat that they would like for Iftar. Usually, they buy a juicebox or chocolate biscuits as I discourage junk food. I always ask Yousof if there is any particular dish he would like to have for dinner, or ask if if what I have decided to cook is ok with him. Unlike many other families, we usually Iftar with dates and water & whatever treat the kids chose for themselves & perform maghrib before sitting down to dinner. Since I only have a short time to cook the meal, it is usually very simple (1 dish + rice) and catered to the children's tastebuds (chicken curry, ayam kicap, ikan goreng tepung, chicken soup). Alhamdulillah, what may seem too simple compared to other people suits us well.

After dinner, his father will drop by and take him for tarawikh prayers at the nearby mosque. I stay at home with the two younger children. We believe it is important for Yousof to also start learning the importance of jamaah prayers. At home Yousof usually prays with me and I try to make sure he does not miss his prayers.
This Ramadhan, my 5 year old boy has not managed to fast every single day. Usually the days when we travel (to KL, Kelantan), he will ask to break the fast. Even at home he sometimes asks. I usually tell him, if he is too hungry or tired, then of course he is allowed to break the fast, but if he thinks he can make it to Maghrib, then he will get the satisfaction of completing the fast. Amazingly, this little boy, tired from a day of learning, with 2 younger siblings eating & drinking near him, will decide to wait. And when he hears the azan, he does not rush to get food or water, but reads the doa, shares a date with me (he doesn't really like the taste but he knows it is sunat to eat, so eats a little) first, before eating his choice of foods. I think, I have truly been blessed because surely I was not this easy to train.

Here are some things that I have learned this Ramdhan to help train a child to fast (most I adapted from Wardina Safiyyah's tips):
  1. Teach your child to solat first. It would be very contradictory if you impress upon them the importance of fasting but do not ask them to solat.
  2. Do not be too rigid. Like insisting they wake up for sahur and finish sahur before Fajr. Or refusing to let them break fast by saying things like "Now? There'se only an hour left. What a waste."
  3. Even with children, self-motivation is very strong. Allow them to feel a sense of achievement. But be careful, sometimes, they do things just to please you. Try and make sure they know why they are fasting.
  4. Make the child feel special.  It is also a good thing to show the younger ones "Abang Yousof can choose 2 things because he is fasting today. Abang Yousof gets this big piece of chicken because he is fasting today. etc"
  5. Do not be disheartened if he doesn't make it through the day. Praise him for his effort. Tell him he can try again tomorrow and next year hopefully he will fast the whole month.

I just wanted to share this experience with you all. InsyaAllah you can also read this article on soon.


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