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10 Tips For Your Child's First Fast

The moment has come for your child, whom you still see as a baby, to fast for the first time in Ramadan. Or perhaps your little one is curious and wants to try and abstain from eating and drinking like the rest of the family. You have been waiting for this moment, but now you are nervous: "How will it go? What can I do to help them out?" We know the feeling! Here is a short guide to help you with your child's first fast!

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Before we dig into practical tips, here is some important information: if your child has any kind of health issues, whether it has been diagnosed or not, please consult with their pediatrician before attempting fasting.

Tip #1: Make dua and advise your child to make dua as well.

Dua is part of worship and it is the best way to start anything that we undertake. Ask Allah SWT to make fasting easy for your child and something that they will love doing for His sake.

Tip #2: Encourage fasting, even at a young age, but don't force your child if they haven't reached puberty yet.

For young children, it could be a very short fast of a couple of hours or even less, and it is best to do those trials outside of Ramadan, especially for children who will be of age to fast during the upcoming Ramadan insha'Allah. It will be great pratice for them and will increase their confidence in their ability.

Tip #3: Be aware of your attitude towards fasting, and rectify it if needed.

If your attitude is not positive, chances are that your child's experience will not be great. Yes, fasting can be difficult, even for us adults. The point is not to lie or try and hide the reality because they will find out eventually! You can recognize the difficulty and still display a good demeanor and gratefulness to Allah SWT for allowing you to fast, as He says in the Quran that fasting is better for us. Fasting is indeed a gift from Allah SWT and an amazing opportunity to increase our worship and service to Him.

Tip #4: Make sure your child understands that it is okay to break their fast early if they don't feel well.

For younger children, it is best to aim for a short fast at first, and see how things go. For instance, you could suggest that they fast until 10am or lunchtime, or that they fast the last hour or two of the day so that they can break their fast with everyone else.

Tip #5: Try to put away "temptations" like sweets, fruits or other food items that are generally in sight.

If you need to cook, it might be best for your child to be busy with another activity away from the kitchen as it may make it more difficult for them to keep their fast, unless they want to help out.

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Tip #6: Prepare activities to keep them busy during the day, but avoid ones that need high levels of energy.

Attending a special Ramadan class at the local mosque, preparing food baskets for the needy, or doing board games are great ways to do that.

Tip #7: Make sure they have a healthy sahoor.

There are many narrations attesting to the importance of this pre-dawn meal, which will help us get through a day of fasting. Include your child in planning for and preparing sahoor so that they will enjoy that early morning time as much as possible and take advantage to fill up their energy levels.

Tip #8: Prepare food for sahoor and iftar that your child loves.

There is nothing like a child's favorite meal to complete their fasting day. Try to avoid unhealthy foods like fried foods, treats and drinks loaded with sugar, so as not to upset their stomach after a day without food or make them feel so sleepy that they won't be able to pray ishaa' and wake up on time the next day (for kids who have reached puberty and need to fulfill these duties).

Tip #9: Celebrate their first fast - whether they have completed it or not.

Celebrate their effort and give thanks to Allah SWT who is the Only One who has made it possible for them to fast.

Tip #10: Have realistic expectations and be prepared for "failures" (and prepare your child for them too).

It is very common for young children to try and eat "in secret" and lie about their ability to fast so as to not disappoint anyone, or for an older child who is of age to fast to fail at it. Try to stay calm and not get upset with them, and rather remind them that this is all for the sake of Allah SWT. There are no secrets for Allah SWT, and lying is wrong - it is okay if a young child cannot fast or doesn't want to anymore after seeing those yummy cookies on the counter! As for your older child, comfort them by telling them that they can try again tomorrow, and that Allah SWT is so Merciful because He offers us a chance to make up for our missed fasts, at a time that might be much easier for us like the shorter and colder days of winter. As with everything else, what matters is the effort and sincerity we put into the task; the rest is with Allah SWT.

May Allah SWT make your child's first fast easy and successful, for them and for you, and make this a means for both of you to grow closer to Allah SWT, ameen!

This article was originally published in our Studio Arabiya Timesmagazine (Spring 2022). CLICK HEREto read the whole magazine!

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