During summer break, most of us with families tend to focus on our own unit. We may plan vacations away from home, register kids for classes, take trips to museums, etc. so their time is spent in fruitful fun.
But summer is also a good time to help your kids reconnect with the Muslim community, since weekend Islamic school and other programs at the mosque take a hiatus. That means less of a chance to learn and socialize in an Islamic atmosphere on a consistent basis.
This year especially offers an excellent opportunity to help young Muslims connect because Ramadan is during summer break.
Here are some ideas.
1. Attend Taraweeh prayers
Even if your daughter or son does not or cannot pray all of the Rakat of Taraweeh, bring them anyway. They’ll soak up spirituality and solidarity as they listen to the recitation of the Quran, while meeting and/or praying with other Muslims in congregation.
Even younger kids can benefit, provided you give them a heads up about behavior in the mosque and a reward for following the rules afterward. While they may not understand everything the Imam or Khateeb will recite, praying with others helps cement the community spirit.
2. Attend Juma prayers
This also offers an excellent opportunity to see community interaction in practice.
Make sure to choose a place that offers the Khutba in English along with the Arabic.
3. Visit a different mosque every week
If you live in a city with a large Muslim community, consider yourself blessed and try this idea out. Even if you personally don't feel comfortable with everything that may go on in a given mosque (e.g. attendees/policies may be too conservative, too liberal, too ethnically or racially homogenous, etc.), take your kids anyway. The aim is to show the diversity of the Ummah while highlighting its unity.
4. Plan trips and play dates around a mosque or Islamic center
Put that GPS to good use and figure out what attractions surround your local mosque or Islamic center. Is it an amusement park? A science museum? An outlet mall? A zoo? Then, plan weekly trips to each of these places with other interested parents, meeting at the mosque at the start and ending the trip with congregational prayer there.
5. Start a "Wisdom of the Elders" series
The community's "aunties and uncles" aged 65 and above are rarely seen as sources of entertainment. But once upon a time, they pulled their own pranks, met famous people (I recently found out an uncle I know had met Eleanor Roosevelt!), and knew how to entertain kids without iPads and iPhones. Tap into their wisdom by organizing a series of short talks or classes called "Wisdom of the Elders". Every week, a community elder shares his/her fascinating story or a skill they know with their young attendees. If you hold the event in a mosque or center, see if you can have one of its founders come and speak to give its fascinating history.
The benefit of this activity is not only that younger Muslims will learn from older ones, but also, that oft-neglected seniors will feel they are making a positive contribution to the community.
6. Encourage them to learn a skill that can help the community
There are plenty of skills that can be picked up in a matter of hours or days through workshops which benefit the community and are in short supply. For instance, babysitting courses, offered by the Red Cross (which can help prepare students for Masjid babysitting during Tarawih prayers in Ramadan, as well as general Masjid events outside of it). CPR and First Aid are also good choices.
Additional ideas include writing workshops for beginners, conflict management and project management seminars.
7. Engage in service projects organized through Masjids and Islamic organizations
If your Masjid or a local Islamic organization is putting together a service project in Ramadan (e.g. feeding the homeless, collecting toys or food, etc.), register yourself and your child to participate. While you can choose any agency that does this, serving with other Muslims during Ramadan, while you are all fasting, offers a spiritual boost and a sense of community.
If not, take the initiative and set up such an activity with your local Masjid or Islamic center.