Once the kids reach approximately 11 years of age, the challenges become somewhat different. However, the better a job we do when the kids are younger, the easier things will be at this most crucial stage, Inshaa Allaah.
One who looks at our situation in the West will find that children may become somewhat rebellious once they reach their pre-teen and teen years. From the reasons for this is the type of things they are exposed to in the media and on TV and movies. They seem to think they know better than their parents because their parents are out of touch with (their) reality and so forth. In addition, there are many physiological changes in their bodies and this contributes to the issue as well. Notice that matters pertaining to “girls and boys” are quite prevalent at this stage. This is very normal and is not something we should avoid dealing with as is the practice with many parents. Rather, the matter must be tackled head on, using tact and wisdom. By now one should be discussing matters of puberty with their children.
Puberty is a topic covered in fiqh in the chapter of tahaarah (purification). The basics of this may be taught even before this point for some (the more “mature” kids) but for most kids they definitely need to learn about it by the age of 12. Alhamdulillaah, there are many good, reliable resources available to us in the English language these days. It is incumbent upon parents to cover this material with their kids. In the event you do not have the tools, make absolutely certain that you find someone who can assist you in this matter. Whether you like it or not, your children will learn about sexuality and similar matters from other than you. Therefore, get to it before others do so your kids can have a proper understanding of it. Make them comfortable so they can come back with questions they may have after hearing other “versions.” For those whose kids are in public schools, do not allow them to attend the sex education classes offered at the school. Make it a point to speak to the teachers and send them notes requesting that your child be excused from such classes because you will be covering the necessary material with them. Don’t take this matter lightly! The manner in which they cover sexuality in schools is not at all acceptable to us as Muslims (for the most part).
Let me once again emphasize here the importance of our children having good Muslim friends and not being close to non-Muslims. I realize how harsh this may sound, but let me tell you from personal experience and observation that I have seen the wisdom of the sharee’ah on this one first hand. Do you really think that your child will excuse himself/herself from gatherings to go and offer salaah while they’re out shopping together or playing ball? Do you honestly think that their non-Muslim friends will abstain from speaking about boys and girls, dating, dances and parties just because your child is in their company? Think again! Believe me, these are extremely critical years and if we do not safeguard our children, the results could be devastating. I see it all the time and deal with these types of matters through the Muslim Youth Help Line and in my position as counselor on a very regular basis. Take my word for it, you do not want to risk it. Very often, the parents are last to know about the boyfriend or girlfriend or the dance their child attended.
You may then ask what to do with the kids. Well, since we live here (and for the most part by choice-as unfortunate as that may be) it is up to us to come up with solutions. Among those solutions is to have a good circle of family friends so our kids will meet with children from like-minded Muslim families. We also need to be proactive and make certain that there are Muslim youth groups in our communities. That way we can always have a safe place to send our kids to. Please understand that as concerned parents we need to play a very active role in the lives of our children. Therefore, you as a parent should do what you can to establish such groups. Volunteer and recruit volunteers, give ideas, contribute financially and encourage youth activities within your community. Let your children be involved and be intelligent; make certain that they are not left to (completely) run things on their own. They need guidance, so see to it that there is a knowledgeable individual overlooking their activities and advising them. Parents, don’t expect the Muslim Society or Masjid or Islaamic Centre to take the initiative, it has to come from us!
At this stage, most of the kids will have either reached puberty or will be close to it. Therefore, it is necessary that they understand very well what that means. In addition to the physical and emotional changes they will experience, they need to be taught of the issue of responsibility and religious commitment. You need to monitor your children very closely and be even more concerned about whether or not they have prayed, fasted and so forth. For the girls, mothers will need to make certain that they don’t feel shy about their monthly cycles; by this I mean that the girls should be made to understand that it is not a shameful thing that they cannot pray and fast while menstruating for example. The reason I mention this explicitly is that in many cases this does happen; girls feel shy and as a result they hide that they’re in that time of month and pray and fast out of shyness. They may be afraid of how others will react. And perhaps here we need to remind ourselves to be more sensitive; many a time adults think they’re being funny and make jokes about girls in that situation. Indeed, the intention may be innocent but the girls are very sensitive and don’t really find the jokes amusing. So let’s be mindful of that.
Let us not forget here the issue of salaah at school. Depending on the season, it is most likely that your kids will need to pray Thuhr at school, particularly in the fall and winter. By the time they get home, it would already be time for ‘Asr. Therefore, it is necessary to train the kids from early on about the importance of salaah and establishing it on time.
In order to assist them and facilitate things, write a note to the school (teacher as well as principal) explaining that your child will be taking a few minutes daily to offer their salaah. In some cases you may need to alert them that your child will excuse himself/herself from class for this purpose. Kindly ask them to suggest a place where they can pray. In the event there are several Muslim kids in the school, perhaps the parents can send in a joint request asking the school to permit their children to pray in congregation. If they do not agree, then just settle with them praying individually, but under no circumstances should you be okay with them not allowing your child to pray at all. Speak to and try to reason with them even if it means taking the matter to the school board. If that does not bring results, make arrangements for your child to leave the school property in order to offer the salaah and then return to school.
In the case of the boys, you need to also make arrangements for salaat al Jumu’ah. If there are enough Muslim students in the school, they can perhaps establish a congregation there. If not, make certain that your sons leave school on time to attend salaat al Jumu’ah at one of the Jumu’ah locations in your city. Recall that salaah is one of the pillars of Islaam and the first thing we will be asked about on the Day of Judgement. If we do not take the steps mentioned above how will our kids be aware of its importance?
One might ask, what if the school is adamant and they refuse to allow the kids to pray at school or even to have them taken out for a short while to pray? I say that this is highly unlikely; however, in the unlikely event that this does happen… pull your child out of the school immediately and homeschool them. Yes, parents, salaah is more important than them being at school. Don’t get me wrong… I am all for education, but it is not a matter of Paradise and Hell (Jannah and Jahannam) as salaah is. I hope we do have our priorities straight.
Having said all this, I also need to remind parents to educate their children on these matters first and inform them not to take advantage of these situations by skipping classes or being late for them etc… Sadly, some children might use religion as an excuse to misbehave. Therefore, speak to them about respecting rules and taking circumstances into consideration. For example, in the case where they have to leave a class for Thuhr, let them know they should offer the fardh and return to class. It is not necessary for them to pray all the sunan at that time. If we approach these issues wisely and intelligently with sincerity, we will not have any problems Inshaa Allaah.
Another matter those who send their kids to public schools must be aware of is that often times kids need to be paired up at school for projects. Do not forget to write the teachers informing them to keep your son with other boys and your daughter with other girls only. If we are lax in this matter, it can lead to some pretty undesirable results. The reader is intelligent enough to figure it out so I won’t go into any details. Again, you need to educate your child on this matter too so they are aware and can respond to any questions they may get from teachers or students on this matter.
Next: Series conclusion
Coming up: Workshop on parenting. Audio recordings to be posted on the site.