By Ayan Nur and Mariam Kandil
“Abdullah* had been asking for help, but we didn’t get it . . . He was a nice kid. Always polite and respectful — the kind of kid every parent dreamed of. But he had struggled. His father was known to be hot-headed and a number of times people had heard him yelling at Abdullah in the masjid. No one wanted to ruffle the dad’s feathers, so everyone remained quiet… Eventually, everyone stopped seeing him at the masjid….And then we find out he committed suicide.”
*name changed for privacy
What would you say to your children if they were friends with Abdullah? How would you support them as they grieve the death of their friend? As a community leader or educator, how do you support Muslim children and youth? It is hard to imagine that suicide is even an issue among our young people, but it is happening all across Muslim communities. Suicide can be a sensitive topic, but it is one that needs to be addressed.
The Family & Youth Institute (FYI), a research and education institute that promotes mental health and well being of individuals and families and, specializes in the needs of American Muslims, has developed resources for individuals who might be suicidal, who are suicide attempt survivors, suicide loss survivors, mental health professionals, educators, community organizers, and family and friends affected by suicide. These Suicide Prevention and Intervention Resources include: i) Community Action Guide, ii) Toolkit iii) Prevention Infographic, iv) Intervention Infographic, and v) National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Video (featuring Dr. Sawssan Ahmed, an FYI researcher).
As a parent, what can you do to support your grieving child?
- What is most helpful is to listen without judging, interpreting, advising, or evaluating- don’t be quick to offer advice and give opinions.
- Reflect back to them so that they know they have been heard. For example, “You really get uncomfortable when kids at school talk about your friend. You wish they knew what it’s like to have a friend die.” Doing this helps children trust that you will listen to them.
Be open to different ways of grieving
- Children can have a wide range of reactions and ways of expressing their grief
- There is no right or wrong way to grieve – some cry, some lash out in anger and others withdraw
- Let them know ALL of their reactions are okay and supporting them to discover what works best for them (as long as their behavior does not hurt themselves or others)
Know that grief doesn’t follow a schedule
- The stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance
- Grieving may include one, all, or none of these experiences and they do not occur in any particular order
- Let your child know it’s common for their feelings, thoughts, and physical responses to change day to day, sometimes minute to minute!
There are different ways to communicate
- Children might turn more towards peers or solo endeavors such as music or journaling for comfort and support
- Children may not talk with the adults about how they are feeling or even about the person who died
- For teens especially, methods of communication that aren’t face to face can be easier to navigate.
- Passing a notebook back and forth, with the understanding that unless there was a safety concern, nothing written would be brought up in person, to be a great way to open up the lines of communication.
- Texting, email, short videos, or written notes – get creative and work with your teen to find what works for both of you.
Know that grief affects children on many levels
- Have trouble sleeping, especially in the few weeks or months after the death and/or have nightmares
- Have short tempers, mood swings, and experience irritability
- Can become forgetful, so your child may need extra reminders about chores and plans
- Experience difficulty concentrating in class or completing homework
For more information, check out The FYI Suicide Prevention Toolkit, a helpful resource for individuals affected by suicide. The Toolkit is a compilation of videos, articles, infographics and hotlines and is organized into sections by reader (suicidal individual, suicide attempt survivor, suicide loss survivor., etc).
As a community member or leader, what can you do after suicide loss?
The entire community and the peers of the person who died by suicide may also be shocked and trying to comprehend the tragedy. There may be other people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, have depression, or have experienced this before and are experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms, amongst other possibilities. Therefore, it is important that the whole community is aware of the way they conduct themselves, especially in the way in which the death is discussed. When talking about the incident, avoid hearsay and gossip and recognize that you do not know what is going on in the minds and hearts of the people around you. Check out the following resources for communities as a whole:
- The FYI Suicide Prevention Community Action Guide is designed to: increase community awareness and education, help identify ways to integrate prevention efforts into your community and highlight relevant resources for those in need. This guide is meant to equip you with the knowledge and tools to better prevent, intervene, and address suicide in your community and help save lives.
- The FYI Suicide Prevention and Intervention Infographics are another helpful resource. They cover topics such as factors that contribute to suicide, warning signs, what to do, and how to talk to someone who is contemplating suicide. These resources are quick and easy references that cover the basics, and are meant to help you intervene with someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, but also provide information to destigmatize suicide. It can be handed out in the community, and posted in areas which are heavily frequented by people.
- Handbook for Survivors of Suicide Loss This handbook covers grief, how to tell others (children, friends, etc.), managing social media, financial concerns, and other resources.
- A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide is a book for people who have lost a loved one to suicide, written by someone who has suffered the same loss. It addresses the emotional roller coaster a loss survivor experiences, grief, suicide facts and myths, battling guilt, moving on, and support.
- Suicide Survivor Resource list. This sheet lists a selection of organizations, websites, and materials that can help people who have lost someone to suicide. Many of these resources were developed by survivors of suicide loss.
- After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools identifies ways to deal with a tragic loss in a community. The content will help you effectively coordinate a crisis response, help individuals cope with their feelings, work with the community, address social media and minimize the risk of suicide contagion. Though it is written for educators and school leaders, the content can be easily transferable for communities and an excellent resource for community leaders.
- Grief Toolkit: http://www.thefyi.org/toolkits/grief-support-tool-kit/
- Crisis Text Line. Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7.
- Muslim Youth 24-hr Helpline: 1.866.627.3342 (http://naseeha.org/)
- Stones to Bridge (anonymous support and counseling for Muslim youth) http://www.stonestobridges.org/
Helping those affected by suicide can be difficult and draining, but inshaAllah will be rewarding. The Family and Youth Institute is available to help support the mental health and well being of American Muslims. We hope these resources are beneficial to you and if you have any questions or want more information please visit our website http://www.thefyi.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Loving Muslim Marriages Episode 3: Are Muslim Women Becoming Hypersexual?
Are Muslim women with sexual demands becoming “hyper-sexual,” being negatively influenced by life in a Western, post-sexual revolution society? Allah made both men and women sexual, and the recognition of a Muslim woman’s sexual needs is a part of the religion even if it seems missing from the culture. This segment is a continuation of the previous week’s segment titled, “Do Women Desire Sex?”
To view all videos in this series, as well as an links or articles referenced, please visit www.muslimmatters.org/LMM
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.