As a mother of a school-aged young Muslim, my family’s Ramadan preparations this year has taken on a new dimension. Considering my daughter does not attend an Islamic school (like I did growing up), I am thinking about how I can introduce Ramadan, Eid and our Muslim celebrations to my daughter’s class and teachers.
My daughter is in pre-kindergarten, so we are entering the elementary stage of our school journey. From speaking with friends who have children in different stages of school life, how to talk to your child’s school about Ramadan (or if you even should) can look very different as the child grows. So let’s consider what should be shared and when about the fasting month with your child’s school and/or teachers, as well as some helpful tips to ease this process and ideas on how to integrate Muslim holidays into your child’s school environment.
When speaking to my friend Lamia Tatari
, a parenting blogger/influencer with a background in psychology, regarding her experience and approach to this topic, I knew I was in for a real treat. Masha’Allah
, she is always sharing innovative and exciting content on Instagram about parenting style, tips, Islamic topics, education, autism and ADHD, drawing on research and her experience in raising three kids in different stages of their education.
1. You are your child’s biggest advocate.
Lamia emphasized this point numerous times. She explained that introducing our holidays doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t start when the child goes to school. If your child attends daycare, that is when you should start actively introducing Ramadan and Eid to your child’s caregiver, especially if their classroom gives attention to other holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza.
Eid goodie bags; image source: Pexels
Making goodie bags, volunteering to read a simple book for the little ones and sending a note to the parents and caregivers are all important steps to take during elementary school age but also during their daycare stage. They may not remember it later on, but it will prepare you as a parent for what is to come when your child enters school as well as helping to familiarize your child’s daycare with your holidays and traditions.
Lamia also says it’s important to be involved with your child’s school in a variety of ways to ensure that your children have a voice at school in all aspects of their education, but especially when it comes to celebrating, respecting and observing their holidays. Being heard as parents and students only happens once parents get involved throughout the school year, not just when it is time for our holidays. Carve out some time during your busy schedule to volunteer at your child’s school. Make this a priority in order for your child’s voice to be heard and for them to be represented.
2. Communication is key.
It is important to communicate with your child’s school and teacher prior to sending in any Ramadan and Eid related materials. Different schools have different rules, especially with public schools. My hope was to be able to read or send in a Ramadan storybook to read to the kids and a goodie bag with a note educating a little bit about our holy month. However, my daughter’s Pre-K program does not allow any celebrations or discussions around holidays from any religion.
(Read this to learn more about how to effectively communicate with teachers in public schools.)
My daughter’s teacher did allow me to send in crescent- and moon-shaped cookies with a simple “Happy Ramadan! Your friend, (daughter’s name)” on it for my daughter to hand out to her peers.
Her teacher was very apologetic that my child could not share her religious traditions in the way that we had hoped, and she worked with me to accommodate something neutral, so my daughter could feel welcome to talk about something that is important to her and her identity. Her teacher was eager to learn more about our holidays and traditions, and allowed us to share a more detailed note about Ramadan and Eid with her and her teacher’s assistant.
Image source: Pexels
With a pure intention and help from Allah (S), you will, Insha’Allah, only receive positive feedback in your experience regardless of what the outcome will look like.
Communicating with your child’s educators, whether that's the principal, secretary or most importantly their teachers is a crucial step to making this process as seamless as possible. We all know that there is a major shift in our schedules during Ramadan. Sending an email or note with your child to their teacher regarding any possible behavioral changes (such as increased tiredness due to the change in schedule at home, even if your child is not old enough to fast) will help their teacher be more mindful of why your child may be acting a little bit differently at school during this month.
Some topics to cover would include delayed dinner time (iftar), special prayers that occur later in the night and waking up earlier than usual for breakfast (suhoor). Even if your child is not fasting, they may still choose to participate in these special rituals of the holy month of Ramadan and join in on the barakah and good deeds. Check out this printable school letter
from Eidcollective.com as a suggest way to reach out to your child's school.
3. Respect your child’s needs and boundaries.
If your child is at an age where they are fasting, or practicing to fast, having a conversation with them about what they are and are not comfortable doing at school during this month is important. If your child would rather sit in a separate room during lunchtime, like the school library or his classroom, communicate this to his teacher or the school board and ensure that your child’s needs are being met. Or, your child may not want to be singled out and stay with their classmates at lunchtime.
Your child may also decide that the physical activity period will be too strenuous on them especially if Ramadan falls in the hot summer months. It’s important for us as parents to listen and respect our children’s boundaries in order for them to feel validated, heard and respected as young Muslims.
4. Follow your child’s lead.
Image source: Pexels
As your child grows their needs at school will vary, and so will their comfort levels. This must be taken into consideration and respected so they do not feel embarrassed or ashamed of their Muslim identity. For example, children in elementary and early middle school may feel excited to have their parent come in and present on the topic of Ramadan and Muslim holidays to their class.
Preparing goodie bags to send to their peers may be a fun activity and something they would enjoy. Allowing them to choose their favorite Ramadan book for you or their teacher to read is another great way to keep them involved in the process.
However, as children grow into the middle and high school age, they may want their parents to be more hands off. By then, they may feel like they are capable of voicing their needs, representing themselves as young Muslim teens, and perhaps not want their parents to step into their bubble at school. Respect their wishes and comfort levels.
Pre teens and teenagers are already going through so much in terms of their growth and changing hormones, as well as battling an identity crisis for those coming from ethnic backgrounds while living in a Western society. Add religion in the mix and you have a whole slur of factors that are already hard enough on us adults and parents to manage, so just imagine how it may be for these young Muslims.
5. It never hurts to ask. You may be surprised what your school allows!
This year, Lamia was able to convince her children’s school principal to allow her to decorate the front entrance of their public school (where they live in Canada) for Ramadan!
It seems far-fetched, but Lamia’s approach was quite simple and convincing. She contacted the principal and pitched her idea by explaining that having the main entrance of the school decorated for Ramadan will be an enriching experience for all, as it will allow exposure to other holidays aside from the ones that are most commonly celebrated.
Lamia's Ramadan display she helped set up at her children's school; image source: Lamia Tatari
Both she and the principal were nervous about how this would unfold; there were a lot of unknowns around how the school community and parents would react. Despite the hesitation, Lamia persuaded the principal by vouching for her children and explaining that her children (who are in kindergarten, second and fourth grade) and others like them deserve to feel confident to fast (if they are fasting) and practice their religion in public and especially at their school.
With the help of a few other Muslim parents, she offered to volunteer her time to donate the decorations and do the decorating. She emphasized to the school that just like how Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated and welcomed beautifully, Ramadan and Eid also have a time of festivity that should be on display.
Alhamdullilah, Lamia was able to achieve her goal and successfully put up a beautiful Ramadan display
for her children and so many others to see as they walk into school during this holy month.
May Allah (S) reward our efforts with infinite reward and accept our attempts at educating our communities and neighbors. Ameen.
How do you communicate with your child(ren)’s school about Ramadan and Eid, especially in a public school environment? Share with us in the comments below!