Ramadan is a fantastic time of the year to teach your kids about charity. Most of us live in a world where we lack nothing that qualifies as a necessity: Food, clothing, and shelter. The other things we surround ourselves with are comforts, if not luxuries. It is true we want our kids to have everything we did and more, but maybe we should stop for a moment and think about whether we are doing them a disservice. Sadly, I’ve come across children and teens who have an atrocious sense of entitlement and I can’t help but blame the parents for putting such ideas into their heads. So, let’s use the blessed month to take some time to introduce our children to the virtue of charity. As they say, “Charity begins at home”.
Open their eyes
Let your kids know what’s happening around the world. There is no need to shelter them from poverty, catastrophes, wars, etc. They must be informed and made aware of crises across the world as they get older. For younger kids, show them examples of the less fortunate and gently help them understand that the world is not an equal place and that some people need a helping hand. Kids can learn to be charitable right from the age of three to four years old, so start when they are young.
Compassion comes naturally
Kids are born with an innate sense of compassion. Yes, they are self-centered but they will try to console their friends or siblings if they are upset or in pain. Kids are naturally empathetic and they can sense your pain too. So, teaching them how to share with the less fortunate won’t be as hard as you think.
Get rid of the “gimme” phase
Teaching our children to give is a great way to get them to stop focusing on themselves and start thinking about the emotions and needs of others around them. This will also help you get them out of the “gimme” phase. They will learn that it’s not all about them all the time.
Be role models
Kids learn best when they watch you doing the deed. This Ramadan, as you plan your zakat, keep your kids informed too. Let them know if you are planning to donate money for the upkeep of your old mosque back home, if you are sending money to a sick relative or if you are paying for the education of your caretaker’s child. Whatever good deed you plan to do, let them know so they can be inspired to spread goodness around too.
Get them excited
Charity doesn’t have to be a boring affair, make it fun and interesting. If there is a walk or campaign to create awareness about diabetes, autism or cancer, get them involved too. Even if they are young, help them understand what’s going on and how you plan to contribute and explain the impact it will have. If there is a food drive at school, get them excited about it and play a part in making sure their contribution is handpicked by them from the supermarket.
Make them donate
Let them go through their own cupboards and shelves and come to you with what they would like to give away. Let them know it’s not okay to give away things that are in bad shape. Always help them remember that what they give away to charity should be in a good condition so it can be used by someone else with gratitude. No matter how young they are, encourage them to let go of things they no longer have use for and which can be of use to others.
Get them to volunteer
For older kids, volunteering can really turn things around. I remember when my daughter first visited the Autism Center, she was speechless. Besides being inspired by the teachers and caregivers, it made her realise how lucky she was. If you look around, there are plenty of opportunities for your kids to spread cheer and learn something at the same time. Encourage them to donate some of their free time to good causes.
Make this a Ramadan they won’t forget
Do something different this time around and make it a Ramadan your kids won’t forget. You could organise a drive to buy toys for kids at the cancer ward at Royal Hospital or you could get the kids involved in collecting money for the cleaners at school or prepare food packs to be delivered to a labour camp. You could even ask your local charity, school or mosque if the kids can do something during their free time so they are not just giving away money but also getting involved in the act of making sure someone is being helped. The sense of fulfilment they get once they help someone is something you can gift them this Ramadan.
Teaching your kids to give is the best gift you can give them as a parent. Not only does it help create empathetic individuals, it also makes your child feel empowered that he or she can make a difference in a bleak world. So, let us be inspired and mould them into the next generation of philanthropists.
Farzeen Ashik is the author of the prize-winning novel ‘Rainbow Dorm Diaries–The Yellow Dorm’.