With the kids back in school, many parents also welcome back the sanity that a routine brings to the household. Bedtimes, meal planning, taking care of homework, etc., all find their proper place in the home.
That said, a new school year is also a great time to gauge your child’s mental and emotional growth. With the physical stresses that indulge our children, sometimes we make the mistake of not taking their emotional and spiritual growth into consideration.
Given this country’s political climate, there is no doubt that some children might feel inclined to ask questions or even sadly, bully others, especially our Muslim children. If there are questions in our children’s minds that are left unanswered, it could lead to more problems in the future. We need to be present and mindful when engaging our children on topics concerning their religious identities.
And unfortunately for our young adults, there is also the huge problem of negative feelings associated with body image and self esteem. According to a 2014 report from Park Nicollet Melrose Center, over 80 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, and 30 percent of 10-14 year-olds are actively dieting. By middle school, 40 to 70 percent of girls are dissatisfied with two or more parts of their bodies.
Parents/family, peers, and the media are all factors that affect how our children see and feel about themselves. With the rise in cyberbullying, as parents we must be more aware of what our children are facing, especially in school where they are left to fend for themselves. And the only problem isn’t how our children see themselves, but also how they see others. Unfortunately some of our children are doing the bullying, and this needs to be addressed early on by teaching children to have compassion for others.
Imam al-Kadhim (as) has said: “Blessed are those who bring peace between the people! These are the ones who will be brought near to God on the day of Judgment.” (Tohfal Aqool)
Another rising problem in schools is sexual assault among students, not just adult-on-child. In fact, according to a 2017 report from the Associated Press, for every adult-on-child sexual assault, there were 7 such assaults by students. No type of school was safe – from the upper class suburbs, inner-city neighborhoods, to blue collar farm towns.
There is no denying that our children are living in a much different world today than the ones we were raised in. There are many things to be worried about, but it shouldn’t always be viewed with pessimism. Being educated and aware of what is going on will help resolve any issues.
With just simply taking a few minutes a day to communicate with our children, we can offer them a safe place to share concerns and even gauge their thoughts and feelings on certain issues at school or with classmates.
Tips on being mindful with our children:
Give time Children know when their parents are in a rush or hurry. Sit down, meet them eye to eye and talk about their day.
Be mindful of other conversations Try to be within earshot of your kids conversations with their siblings, cousins or friends. Things may come out that you need to address. This is also when your kids become real kids and are ready to imitate or impress.
Observe your child’s behavior If they have been bullied or hurt, they might not come directly to you. Gently help them address what has happened.
Limit TV time, access to social media and video games The media is part of the problem when it comes to harmful behavior at schools and among young children. If you cannot block it altogether, at least be aware of what your kids are watching and doing. Have them in your presence so you can address any concerns right then and there.
Make dua together Set aside a little time each day, maybe before bedtime, where you as a family can pray together and remember Allah and ask Him for help and guidance. Often we make religion more oriented towards adults, so this can also help children feel connected to Allah and see that the Almighty has a place in their lives as well.
Imam Ali (as) once swore that he never asked Allah the Most High for a beautiful child or one with a good stature, instead he always wanted a child who would obey Allah’s command, so that when he saw this, he would become happy.
May Allah give us the opportunity to raise our children with mindfulness and full attention, and may He protect them from harm. Our children are a trust from Him, and although it is a tough job, parenting can also bring us the most joy, if we just have faith in Allah and work hard to raise our kids with Islamic values.
Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.