Ramadan for kids
One of the huge benefits of living in such a multicultural city is the depth of experience and exposure that children have to different traditions and cultures. However it can sometimes prove difficult to explain to little ones what these experiences mean and why they are so important to others.
As a mother I know how hard it can be to answer all the questions, and being a Muslim myself, hopefully I wanted to offer some simplified explanations that may help educate children about our most important time of the year.
Firstly, it’s good for children to understand that fasting is not something unique to Islam; fasting and deprivation are very old spiritual techniques used by lots of other people around the world as part of their culture and religion.
Fasting can take different forms for different cultures/religions, some stop eating certain types of food for certain days (such as Christians for Lent), some fast but still drink and some stop drinking as well. The periods of fasting also differ from one religion/culture to another.
Muslims stop eating and drinking from when the sun goes up to when the sun sets for one month every year, this is the Holy Month of Ramadan.
The reason we fast is because our bodies have to use energy to digest food, so we believe that when we stop eating we can use that energy for thinking (meditating). Believers have used fasting from olden days until today to clean (purify) the body and mind (soul). It is supposed to help make us stronger inside and help us understand others better (to be empathetic) and to connect with God and the people around us better. It also makes us understand how people who are poorer than ourselves and who may not have food and water feel.
When you are fasting you should not only stop eating, drinking and chewing gum while the sun is up but also you are supposed to think of all the ways you can be nicer to and help other people – your family, friends, teachers, cleaners, and even strangers. You should try to say only nice things to people, and not get angry or cross with anyone or be rude. When we don’t spend our time getting cross or upset, our minds are clear to think about all the good things we have and focus on the important things.
You should also try and do something charitable for people in need who need help from others – donating some money or gifts, or volunteering to help.
Hopefully these simple concepts can be easily understood by your children. It can also be fun to organise additional research activities around this to help older children understand the commonalities between us all. You can challenge them to find out where fasting is practiced as a religious or spiritual practice. How long they fast for and how, and what kind of foods people stop eating in different cultures/religions.