While many parents welcome the more relaxed Ramadan schedule summer affords, they also fret about how to keep kids entertained amid free hours and their own flagging energy. Schlepping bored children from one activity to after another while you’re exhausted from the heat and your fast is neither necessary nor spiritually healthy. Here are some ways to balance fasting and parenting in the heat this Ramadan.
1. If they’re old enough and can handle it, have them fast with you
The shared experience will help train them to fast when they’re older, and it will create great memories. The added bonus is that once they understand how hot and tired you are from the summer fast, they are more likely to forego constant activity in sympathy.
2. Embrace the afternoon nap
This is not only a Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, but it is also a healthy habit that boosts your brain’s learning capacity and memory. Napping will also give everyone the downtime needed to avoid getting on each other’s nerves amid the heat and constant family closeness that is a product of summer.
3. Share the load
If neither shared fasting, nor an afternoon nap are options, split up childcare responsibilities with a family member or friend with kids the same age as yours. Give each other a few hours off once or twice a week when you watch and entertain each other’s children so the other parent can rest or recharge spiritually.
And during babysitting, avoid parking the kids in front of the computer or television. Engage in Ramadan-related reading, arts and crafts, etc.
4. Attend kid-friendly Taraweeh prayers
One of the great blessings of a summer Ramadan is the fact that you can attend Taraweeh prayers without worrying about getting the kids to school the next day. The problem is keeping the kids busy if they aren’t praying with you. This year, try to attend Taraweeh at Masjids or Islamic centers where there are either organized programs for children, or they are given a space to quietly play. Interacting with other kids may become an incentive to let you pray in peace and can build bonds of friendship.
5. Plan outings early in the day
Try to take kids to the park, classes, etc. right after breakfast and before lunch. With stomachs full and the day still relatively cooler, they will be less cranky and have more energy to get what needs to be done effectively.
6. Develop a Ramadan To-Do List with Them
Pick a couple of goals for the kids to accomplish and hold them accountable. Daily, ask if they’ve memorized the verses they planned to (e.g. one a day), fulfilled any volunteer commitments, called or written to relatives they’ve wanted to keep in touch with, etc. Keep them busy with good deeds by showing them how doing a little each day will help them ultimately achieve a long-term goal.
7. Help them embrace “boredom”
Boredom has actually been found to benefit adults and children, and can lead to greater creativity. Telling kids to “figure out what you want to do” when they do complain about being bored (provided it doesn’t involve a phone or a computer) will not only boost their brainpower. It will also teach them that you are not the court jester of their kingdom. Part of growing up is figuring out how to wisely spend their time. Hand over this responsibility to them for at least a few days this Ramadan and watch what they do. You may be pleasantly surprised.
8. Let them work out their own disagreements
Summer is prime time for sibling squabbles. For parents, refereeing the constant fighting is exhausting and frustrating. Barring physical and verbal abuse, don’t interfere. Instead, teach your kids the art of healthy arguing. Then, let them figure it out on their own. Don’t waste your precious Ramadan energy getting in the middle of low-level battles. Save it for the more serious arguments and let them deal with the lesser ones.