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Are your children starting to fast this Ramadan?

Are your children starting to fast this Ramadan?

While it

is not mandatory for your

child to fast before they hit

puberty, most young Muslim

children look forward

to Ramadan as an important

rite of passage. It allows

them to deepen their

faith while understanding

the significance of fasting.

The appropriate age for

fasting from medical standpoint

depends on the general

health of the child and the

build. Generally, healthy

children can start fasting

from 10 years of age, but

should not be forced to if

they do not feel they can do

  1. “If a child shows interest

in fasting at younger age, he

or she can be encouraged to

try,” says Dr Abeer Khayat,

Paediatrician. “However,

in the presence of illness

or poor general health parents

should not allow them.

By puberty, or around 15

years of age, they can fast as

adults according their faith

and beliefs.”

Ensuring health

Preparing children for

fasting does not occur over

few days prior to Ramadan.

In contrast, the ability of a

child to fast depends on on

a longstanding healthy lifestyle

that usually starts at

very early age. “It includes

a healthy diet and eating

habits, establishing sleep

hygiene, staying physically

active and avoiding a sedentary

lifestyle throughout

the year,” says Dr Khayat.

Ensuring the overall

health of their children is

the responsibility of parents

and the paediatrician,

says Dr Khayat. Families

are encouraged to have

yearly visits with their children

to a paediatrician to

ensure normal growth and

development; these visits

provide the earliest opportunity

to prevent, diagnose

and treat health conditions

before they become serious.

“If the parents are not

sure about their child nutrition

status, it would be

advisable to have him or

her checked by a paediatrician

before allowing

the child to fast,” says Dr

Khayat. “During fasting, it

is encouraged to keep normal

life routine as much as

possible; such as waking up

early in the morning, keeping

normal daily activities,

taking a short nap in the afternoon,

and avoiding staying

up late at night.”

A healthy diet

What can a child eat

when ending their fast? It’s

best to eat dates and drink

water or milk, followed by

a short break before having

the main meal. “This practise

helps the body regulate

the amount of food that the

child needs and avoid overeating,”

says Dr Khayat.

“Eating too fast is not encouraged

as this can delay

the feeling of fullness and

satisfaction and can lead

to overeating.”

The general concern is

not about getting sufficient

food and calories, but how

to make sure children are

not overeating during Ramadan.

“Eating in Ramadan

should not be different

than any other time of

the year and a healthy diet

and eating habits should

be maintained,” advises Dr

Khayat. “Children are encouraged

to drink at least

four to six cups of water

between Iftar and Suhour

and avoid sugary drinks.

Iftar meal does not have to

be very heavy, and should

be equal to regular lunch or

dinner. One healthy snack

such as whole fruits, dates,

yoghurt, milk, or a smoothie

can be offered before

sleep. Suhour meal, equal

to normal breakfast meal,

should be postponed as

close as possible to dawn,

in order to provide energy

during the day.” l