Saudi Gazette report
Most Muslim parents encourage their young children to fast in the holy month of Ramadan. However, some believe that it is too early for these children to get used to the strain of fasting and it is better not to encourage them to fast.
Al-Riyadh daily interviewed several experts in education, sociology and psychology to find out the best age for children to start fasting in Ramadan.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Mahisi, a professor of education at Najran University, supports parents who make their sons and daughters get used to fasting in Ramadan at an early age.
“Fasting is healthy for children and enhance their determination and will power. But parents should not force children to fast. On the contrary, they should explain to their children the benefits of fasting and let them decide,” he said.
One step at a time
Lubna Ismail, a psychologist, said the best time to encourage a child to fast is at the age of seven. The age of 10 is the typical age for fasting but training should start earlier.
“Parents have to be careful about individual capabilities of their sons and daughters as some children can easily put up with hunger and thirst but all cannot. It is wrong to beat a child if he refuses to fast because he might break his fast before sunset behind his parents’ back and get used to this bad habit even after growing up,” she explained.
The best way to achieve this goal is to be patient with the child and talk him or her gradually into fasting a few hours of the day, then increase the number of hours slowly until they fast the full day, Ismail said.
She added that the child then could be encouraged to fast a few days of the month. Parents should give their children a reward if they fast for two or three days consecutively.
Muhammad Al-Wabil, professor of sociology, agrees that gradual learning is one of the best ways to get children up to seven years old to fast. Mothers are encouraged to delay the meal of their children until the time of Maghreb prayer is up.
“Parents must realize that children are not under any religious obligation to fast in Ramadan, and therefore, they should not force their children to fast. They have to be mindful of their children’s health and psychological state and watch whether fasting is making any negative impact on them,” he said.
He suggested a reward and punishment method to train children to fast. For example, a little child should be given a reward or a gift if he fasts the entire day. Parents should explain to their children why Muslims fast and what kind of reward is awaiting those who do. There are multiple methods to encourage children to fast but these two have proved to be effective, he said.