The following article was compiled by Iesa Galloway for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston‘s E-Newsletter. It draws heavily from content originally written by other authors for SoundVision.com and by blogger Nesima Aberra (links below).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for those under your care. A man is a shepherd, and he is responsible for those under his care. The woman is a shepherd in her husband’s household and she is responsible for those under her care.” [Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]
While researching tips to help Muslim parents talk to our children about Halloween, I came across the following segment of a young American Muslimah’s blog that really illustrates a common problem many of us face:
“It was the day before Halloween and our mosque’s Sunday school principal asked the younger kids if we celebrated Halloween. The response was entire rows of kids squealing with excitement as they nodded their heads and raised their hands to show they were in fact celebrating. The principal shook his head and chastised the children in a thick accent: “No we do not celebrate Halloween! It is haraam! Why would you celebrate it?”
One kid responded bravely: “Because there’s candy! We want candy!”
The principal was quiet for a moment and then said: “If you want to have candy, go to your parents and ask for five dollars and then go to the candy store and buy yourself a bag of candy!”
There was some laughter and disappointed faces and then we prayed… And that was it.
There was no discussion about Halloween and why the holiday is antithetical to our religion. A much more productive and constructive way to empower our youth and help them be proud of their religion is to actually help them understand the reasoning behind what we do. Do we really think that simply telling kids “no” is enough to satisfy their questions about why they can’t drink, or date, or do drugs, or gamble or etc. etc. etc.” (adapted from: http://justnes.wordpress.com)
Consider the following 10 tips when discussing Halloween with your family:
1) Get the facts. The more you know about a subject the more secure you will be in your stance regarding it. Remember that your children need to know why you want them to be different from their peers. This is not a trivial matter. If you show them that you respect them and their intellect, they will feel more empowered and confident. Their confidence and understanding of Islamic principles will be very important if they are going to differentiate themselves from their classmates. Here are two resources you can learn more about the history of Halloween:
2) Have a united position: It is essential that you and your spouse agree on your family’s position on Halloween. Discuss your concerns, ideas and your desired approaches with each other. Once you both come to an agreement and understand each other’s concerns call a family meeting.
3) Show compassion: Introduce the topic by asking your kids questions. Find out what their school or friends are planning for Halloween. Ask them how they feel about it. make sure you really listen to your children. Do not cut them off while they express their thoughts and feelings. Let them know you understand and care about where they are coming from by doing more than just listening to them, validate their feels to show that you understand. Parents can say things like, “I know it’s hard to watch your friends having fun on Halloween and it might make you sad because you feel left out.”
4) Explain your position: Present your research about Halloween. Allow your spouse to support you. Explain what your position will mean for your children. Emphasize that this is you and your spouse’s position and remind them that you love them. Do not over emphasize fatwas or what people in the community might think. You do not want your children to think that Islam is limiting their lives or that you care more about what people think than about your kids and what they want. Be sure to help them understand the following facts:
- Halloween has pagan roots
- It is associated with celebrating superstition, black magic, and devil worship
- Costumes are often inappropriate and immodest
- Trick or treating can be seen as either blackmail or begging and Muslims are not supposed to beg or extort people.
5) Show more compassion: Encourage your kids to ask questions and respect them by discussing their concerns. You are looking for changes in how they see Halloween after you have discussed your family’s position with them.
6) Accept reality: Your kids most likely know other Muslim families who will take a different stance on Halloween (and other holidays) than you want your family to. Remind your children that each family is responsible for their own decisions. Just because another Muslim family is doing something, it does not mean that their decision is right for your family. Remind your children to be confident in their decisions and not to be judgmental of other people.
7) Teach them to be proud of whom they are: Remind your children that it is OK to be different. Emphasize that this does not mean that they cannot have non-Muslim friends or that they will have to be excluded from all of their school or peer activities. Remind them of all the things that they love about Islam and the Muslim community. Tell that in Islam we accept the best aspects of what is good and safe guard ourselves from things that contradict Islamic principles.
8) Organize a fun event: On Oct. 31st put together a family night at the masjid or a even just a small get together with friends. This will help your kids take their minds off Halloween and bond with other like minded people so they do not feel alone.
9) Consider their school: Write a letter (sample available here) to their teacher(s) explaining your stance on Halloween. You may also want to consider picking them up early or even not taking them to school on the day there is a Halloween party. Offer to meet your children’s teachers to discuss you and your children’s concerns.
10) Reward your kids: Both Eids have just passed, however you can still do something special to show them you appreciate how they handled the situation. End the event by getting your family excited about Ramadan, Eid al Fitr, Hajj and Eid ul Adha! Explain the significance of our Islamic celebrations and the meanings and purposes behind them. Seek input from your children about ways to do something special in lieu of celebrating Halloween. Ask for their suggestions by saying things like, “Since you’re trying so hard to please Allah, let’s try to think of something we can do as a family that would be fun.” In this way, your children will have more ownership over the alternatives and feel empowered to share their perspectives with you.
The most important point of this article is that we have to establish better communication with our loved ones. We have to encourage them to open up to us. To do this we must create an environment where our children will trust us with their mistakes, their curiosity and their problems. They will do this more and more when they are reminded of how much we love them.
“And those who believed and whose descendants followed them in faith – We will join with them their descendants, and We will not deprive them of anything of their deeds. Every person, for what he earned, is retained.” (The Holy Quran: 52:21)
PLEASE NOTE: Many of the tips above and the sample letter have been adapted from a series of excellent Halloween articles originally published at SoundVision.com.
The Hyperactive And Inattentive Child | Dr. Hatem Al Haj
Some kids are fidgety and hyperactive, as if they are “driven by a motor,” constantly moving around, bouncing off the furniture, and unable to stay still and quiet. They may be also quite impulsive, so they can’t wait for their turn, blurt out answers before you finish your sentence, and intrude in on others. Others are inattentive and out of focus – almost always. They are disorganized and forgetful, and they lose their things regularly. These criteria could be bad enough to qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, which is Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Some may have the inattention alone, others the hyperactivity alone, while a third group has both.
This spectrum of disorders may lead to poor performance in school, inconsistency in work, emotional immaturity, and social difficulties, but let us not forget that these kids may have some special strengths as well, such as their boundless energy, enthusiasm, humor, and creativity.
The diagnosis of ADHD will need a specialized health care provider to make, but the following tips will be helpful for kids who share some or all the aforementioned criteria, whether they have the disorder or not.
Since a big part of the problem that will lead to most of the difficulties in schooling is the disorganization and lack of focus, it is recommended that we help those kids stay organized and on task through the following measures:
o Consistent schedules and having daily routines even when it comes to the waking up rituals: going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth and putting on their clothes. (Older kids should have prayed fajr before sunrise.) Have the schedule on the refrigerator or bulletin board in their study or bedroom. (Don’t forget to schedule time for play and wholesome recreation.) Let the child be part of the planning and organizing process.
o Keep in the same place their clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. Use notebook organizers and color-coded folders. If you homeschool, make the day structured and buy them a desk where they can put their belongings, and if you send them to school, make sure they bring back written assignments.
o Decrease distractions as much as possible. If you home school, then I suggest for you to keep a quiet environment as much as possible and avoid excessiveness in decorating your house (particularly their study place) with knickknacks and pictures. Maybe this would provide us a reason to try (and hopefully appreciate) minimalism!
o TV and videogames are bad for all kids, and even worse for kids with ADHD, except when permissible programs are watched in moderation. See the AAP’s guidelines for “use in moderation.”
Some tips for parents and guardians
- Consistent rules must be in place. Rewards must be given to the children when they follow them, and punishment must be judiciously used when the rules are broken.
- Kids with this condition may have low self-esteem, and it is detrimental to their welfare to further lower it. Thus, praise good behaviors frequently even if they were little and expected, such as putting their shoes where they belong.
- Do not be frustrated with the inconstancy of the child’s performance. He may get a 100% on one test and then fail the next. Use the first to encourage them and prove to them that he can do better.
- One on one teaching/tutoring may be needed to enable the child to keep up with the schoolwork.
Should we use medication?
Medications are sometimes needed. You must consult your doctor regarding their use.
Here are my non-professional thoughts:
- Prescribing those medications should never be a kneejerk reaction. First, we must be confident of the diagnosis, then, try all other modalities of therapy, and finally, entertain the option of pharmacological intervention.
- Medicating the children should never be for the interest/comfort of the parents or teachers; it should be only for the interest of the child.
- Medications should be tried if the child is failing to keep up with learning knowledge and skills s/he will need in their future, and other therapies failed to help them
How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age
I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.
While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.
Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!
- Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.
- Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
- Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.
A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.
Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!
In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.
Raising a Child between Ages 7-12
From a cognitive-development standpoint, this is called a concrete operational period, according to Jean Piaget.
(N.B: Some adults never progress beyond this phase, while 15% of kids may reach the following formal-operational phase at age 9!)
The child now (7-12) may factor in two dimensions of an object simultaneously. So, the longer cup may have less water because it is thinner. However, this is still hard for him/her to perform in the abstract realm, so, they are still uni-dimensional in that respect. Concepts and behaviors are still black and white. It is also hard for the kids in this stage to imagine and solve the structure of a mathematical problem. They cannot think contrary to facts. In other words, you can’t get them to use as a basis for an argument a question like what if the sky rains sugar instead of water?
Socially, Erikson felt that in this period kids develop industry or inferiority. According to his theory, from age six to puberty, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. If encouraged, they feel industrious and confident in their ability to achieve goals.
Based on these observations, we may recommend:
1- Using a lot of hands-on teaching, since they still have limited ability with conceptualization and abstract reasoning.
2- Continue the focus on memorization. If you want them to finish the Quran in 1-2 years, 12 and/or 13 seem to be the prime years for that. This suits some children and some families, not all. If you like a more gradual approach, you should have them start serious memorization at 7, accelerate at 10, and finish by 15-17. Not all kids are meant to memorize the whole Quran though; they can still be educated and pious. Invest in their strengths, not your dreams.
3- Use concrete props and visual aids, especially when dealing with sophisticated material. Use story problems in mathematics.
4- Use open-ended questions that will stimulate thinking and help the child reach the following stage faster. Example: “What do you think about the relationship between the brain and the mind?”; “What do you think about the relationship between prayful-ness and piety?” Make sure you know the right answers!
5- More explanations will be needed, but keep them simple, and even though they should be more detailed than the last stage, they still need to be uni-dimensional. Examples: we obey God because he created us; if we disobey Him, we get punished, and if we obey Him, we get rewarded in this life and in the hereafter. Too early to teach him that “the brokenness of the disobedient is better than the haughtiness of the obedient.” Break it down. Humbleness and obedience are good, while haughtiness and disobedience are bad.
6- Encourage and praise their accomplishments, while making them aware that there is always room for improvement. Continue to encourage initiative-taking and leadership qualities, yet you may also set limits, and make them aware that they will have to always report to someone. Even if there are no people above them, Allah always is. They have to adapt to being leaders and followers at the same time, because that is the reality of all people.
7- This is still a stage of belonging and affiliation to the group, and the child will develop more or less attachment to Islam through his or her experience at the masjid and with the community.