At age 4 to 7 it is important to encourage our children to love Islam. They should see how special the month of Ramadan is and share in our happiness that Ramadan has arrived. While Ramadan is about becoming closer to Allah, there are ways of making it special that appeal to this age group, such as decorating the house and organising daily rewards for good deeds. Explain to your child that this month is special because it is the month when the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammed (SAWS).
Reassure your child that they are too young to fast because they are still growing, and they need to eat to become strong, although they may want to try out a few hours. Explain that young children, the elderly and ill people must not fast because Allah does not want us to harm ourselves, but they can still do good deeds that Allah loves throughout the month. So that they feel involved, make a list of daily activities that your child can do to feel the spirit of Ramadan, such as giving in charity, helping an elderly relative, giving out small gifts, handing out dates at the time of iftar, or learning an ayat or dua. Find some short online stories about prophets in Islam and watch one every evening as something special to do in Ramadan.
You can explain to young children that fasting helps us to be disciplined and compare it to something in their lives that they must be disciplined with, such as listening to the teacher in school or tidying up their bedroom. Explain that by doing what Allah loves (fasting, reading more Quran, and praying in the night), we come closer to Allah and this helps us in our daily lives because we feel that love and that we have the support of Allah.
The same principles described above can be applied to children age 8 to 12, but the points can be taken a step further. For example, explain that the hunger we feel while fasting helps us to understand what poor people are going through when they don’t have enough to eat. Explain that we are fortunate to have something to eat for suhur and iftar, and that Ramadan helps us not be greedy; this is especially important for children growing up in well off households.
At this age, your child may want to fast, and they may be capable of completing whole days. Make sure that you address this according to the individual child so that they enjoy fasting and do not feel forced to do it. If your child finds it difficult to fast, praise them for doing half days. On the other hand, if your child is determined to complete whole days, make sure that they are drinking enough water during the night and eating nutritious food, and consider giving them a multi-vitamin supplement. Also consider what is available for suhur and iftar and make sure it is something your child enjoys (this is not the time to be strict about trying new foods etc), and ensure you praise your child for their efforts and treat them.
Explain that fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Shahadah (belief in Allah and Prophet Muhammed SAWS); Salah (praying 5 times a day); Hajj (going to visit the Kaba in Makkah), and Zakat (giving a small portion of your wealth to those in need). It is important that all Muslims strive to do their best to follow the 5 pillars and encourage them to make dua in Ramadan that they will fulfil all these pillars when they become an adult. Buy age-appropriate Islamic books for your child so that they can read while you are reading the Quran or praying Taraweeh. Also encourage them to make dua and say Tasbih (SubhanAllah, Alhamdullilah and Allah Akbar 33 times each) more during Ramadan.
Again, all of the previous points apply, but by this age your child should be attempting to fast in earnest and if they have reached puberty, they should be completing the whole month of Ramadan. It is easy to become stressed in Ramadan due to not eating, and teenagers are hormonal at the same time, so make sure they are given enough space to do their own thing. Make a list of appropriate television programmes and games prior to the start of Ramadan, such as nature programmes, historical documentaries, and travel blogs around Muslim countries, so that your child has some time to relax in a halal way. Invite their friends over to share in iftar, and allow them to take charge of the menu, even if that means ordering in pizza!
As children get older, it is important to explain the concept of being between the love and fear of Allah. When they are younger, as explained above, it is more important to focus of love of Allah, but at this age, they need to understand the importance of doing what pleases Allah so that we avoid both Jahannam and problems in our lives. It is also essential to explain that Allah is Al Ghafur (The Forgiving), so if we do a mistake, we simply repent to him and ask for His forgiveness. Consider purchasing a Quran translation that is aimed at teenagers, as well as books on the Seerah (the life of Prophet Muhammed SAWS).
We hope these tips are useful, and we ask Allah to guide all our children ameen.