By Sahar Kassaimah
Reprinted from Islam-Online.net
"Mom, I am bored!" "Mom, what can I do?" "Can I play outside?" "Can I visit a friend?" These are questions almost every mother hears from her children during summer vacation when children have a lot of free time to spare. Some parents choose the easiest way out and have their children spend hours in front of the TV or playing videogames, just to keep them busy and out of their hair. Others choose another way…regardless of how much effort and time it may cost. They prefer to take an active role in their children's lives and actually spend quality time with them.
How should we keep our children busy is the question. How should they spend their free time? There is no doubt that if we left our children to spend their time the way they wanted to, they would pass their summer vacation away by sitting front of the TV or doing some other mindless activity.
No one can deny that there is a big difference between children today and children twenty or thirty years ago. There is no way they could have remained the same because times have changed and children subsequently must change with them. But, everything around our children now, not only in this country or society but everywhere, destroys what we try to build at home. And as the Arabic proverb says: How could the building be built, if I build and others destroy?
Nevertheless, that does not mean that we should succumb to the anti-family flow that surrounds our children. In fact, we should increase and redouble our efforts to protect them from this wave. What our children face outside the home is much greater and more dangerous than our imaginations. Therefore, they need our support, our help, and our time.
I believe that summer vacation is a great chance for parents to spend more time with their children. So, how can we let ourselves lose this opportunity to the TV? Wasting time is not the only negative consequence of the television; problems also occur due to what our children watch. Can anyone disagree that most of the television programs contain either violence or sex? Our children do not need to be exposed to unhealthy images that will destroy their innocent nature.
Therefore, we need to spend more time choosing and then deciding which programs or movies we can allow our children to watch. In the meantime, we should limit the hours they spend in front of the TV.
Of course, it will require us to become good examples ourselves. We are the first example our children look to; they behave the same way they see us behaving. So, if we do not want them to waste time in front of the TV, we had better start by watching the time we spend watching it, as well as refining the quality of what we watch.
However, the effect of TV is not the topic of this article. Rather, my concern is that we should not sacrifice our children's precious time. They need us to spend time with them… talking to them, answering their questions, and correcting their misunderstandings and faults.
It is hard to imagine that there are parents who do not spend any time talking or playing with their children because they consider it a waste of time. But, true wasting of time comes when we spend hours without doing anything productive.
Of course, no one can spend all his/her time with their children because everyone has other duties to attend to. But, nonetheless, we cannot and should not give up the precious moments we do have.
We must also remember that it is quality and not quantity that counts. Our children need to learn that Allah (SWT) will ask us about our time and how we spent it. They need to learn, early on, how to plan and have a schedule. Therefore, it is our responsibility to teach them to plan time for reading, for example. If they are still young, we should read to them until they learn how to do it for themselves.
We can also encourage them to help out at home: they can wash dishes, clean the table, or the mirrors, clean their rooms or arrange the bookshelf, etc. That way, they will understand in the future that it is not just their mother's responsibility to clean the house, but rather the family's responsibility; and then they will realize that they are not helping out as a favor, but because they should.
It may also be enjoyable to spend time working on a project together. Children and parents can also draw or color together. One other source of positive encouragement is to encourage them to become active in sports and then attend their games or matches.
In the meantime, it is very important that we teach them to make time to worship Allah (SWT). Even if they are still young, we can encourage them to stand with us in prayers or to make zikr after prayers. When they grow up, we need to watch them and to encourage them to pray on time. Summer vacation is also a good chance for parents to teach children Arabic and to encourage them to memorize Qur'an. The youngest years are our best chances to instill in them the need to memorize the Qur'an; and young children tend to have keen memorization abilities.
We can also spend time explaining the meanings of Qur'an and teaching them Islamic manners. For example, we can answer their innocent questions about the Creator …how Allah (SWT) looks, how He can see them, or why they should love Allah (SWT) and Prophet Mohammed (SAW) more than their mothers and fathers.
By talking to them, we can implant the love of Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (SAW) in their hearts, which will give them the chance to look around, think about the unseen world and discover, for themselves, the great power of Allah (SWT).
The family meeting, when the entire family gets together to talk, laugh and learn, is also very nurturing for children. Try holding the meeting at home, at the park, or anywhere you like, as long as it means spending time together.
There are many ways to enjoy and take advantage of our children's time. We must show them that we care about how they spend their precious time and that we want to join them in spending it.
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