The Importance Of Honest And Open Communication With Muslim Children About COVID-19

This pandemic could be a punishment or a lesson to mankind, but try to avoid using negative words. Emphasizing on punishment may cause our children to think this is a hopeless situation when it is not.

This pandemic could be a punishment or a lesson to mankind, but try to avoid using negative words. Emphasizing on punishment may cause our children to think this is a hopeless situation when it is not.

Our lives have greatly altered due to the pandemic. There have been changes to the way we work, our social interactions, and even how religious rituals are conducted — and this affects us as adults immensely. However, have we really made an effort to help our children through their concerns?

Do Not Neglect This Conversation: Children Observe More Than We Think

I realised this after an incident that occurred in my household. I was exhausted after two weeks of #WFH and managing other tasks. One evening, I almost fainted. After a much-needed nap, I noticed my daughter crying. She was worried that I had COVID-19. She took hand sanitizer and pumped it into my palm, brought a glass of water to me, and covered me with a blanket, trying to make me feel better. 

I was sad to see her so worried. It made me see how important it was to sit down with our children and explain the situation surrounding COVID-19. We need to address their concerns, assure their fears, and highlight the hope that we will get past this. 

Speak To Them Appropriately

Ask questions suitable for your child’s age. For older kids, ask what they already know, and address any worries they have. Then, explain the deeper implications of COVID-19 and how we can do our part to better the situation. For younger children, it can be difficult to explain the importance of social distancing and the impact of a pandemic. It is better to establish good habits and set a different routine for them.

Establishing Good Habits

Children learn best by example. They need to see us consistently do it so it establishes a habit in themselves. Besides washing hands and maintaining social distance, we can involve our kids in activities such as:

  • Gardening — growing vegetables from our leftovers, and this avoids food wastage.
  • Recycling — explaining how we can use the same thing in different ways, and gather our recyclables materials, like making outfits for dolls by using and cutting old socks. 

Setting A Different Routine

Transition our children towards change by setting a different, but enjoyable routine. Arrange indoor activities for them — there are plenty of experiments and activities to do with everyday household items. If we are able, bring them out for outdoor activities, even if it is just to water the plants or wash the car.

This can be difficult to manage while we #WFH and settle chores. Therefore, we need a new routine for ourselves. Wake up before fajr to get our work done so that when the children are up, we attend to them. Here, communication with our partner is key. Talk to our partners, manage expectations, give and take when it comes to our shared working hours, managing the household, and attending to the kids.

Is COVID-19 a Punishment? Offer Comfort and Honesty Instead

This pandemic could be a punishment or a lesson to mankind, but try to avoid using negative words. Emphasizing on punishment may cause our children to think this is a hopeless situation when it is not. So we can speak about this being a test. The word test means we have the will to overcome it. 

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an, 2:286)

We can illustrate this by telling the stories about the Prophets — how they were tested with ostracization, plague, disease, etc but they continued with their tasks with full belief in Allah — and they were  triumphant. Allah does not abandon His faithful believer. 

Trust in Allah’s Love and Mercy

My children and I begin the day by reciting this dua

“I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah from the evil in which He created.”

I tell them the Prophet recited this three a day, and it is said we will be protected from harm. This may help our children to understand that we can all make effort to be protected, ie wash our hands, practice social distancing, avoid crowded places, and above all, make dua

We can journal about certain verses in the Qur’an and reflect on its lessons. It is mentioned in the Quran (65: 2-3):

“Whoever fears God, He will make for him a way out. And God will provide for him in a way He never expected. And whoever trusts God, He is sufficient for him.”

This is a message some forget to highlight, and this can make us feel hopeless and depressed. Let’s emphasize on having trust in Allah SWT’s love and mercy. Trust and pray to Him. InsyaAllah, we will be safe from harm.

On Death And Dying

Focus on the positives. Let them know that children are not as affected as adults are. Highlight that there are so many cases of recoveries. 

If they ask about death and dying,  try to be comforting and honest at the same time. Death is a natural process of life. While we do not need to focus on this topic, do explain that we are all guests in this world, and heaven is the best place that we can hope to be in. 

Being Sensitive To The Difficulty of Others

Hate speech has escalated since COVID-19. Remind our children and ourselves to not condemn a specific race for this illness. Explain it is important to be kind to people who are sick, and not blame others for COVID-19. 

We Need To Remind Our Children And Ourselves To Thank Allah

The pandemic can impact the mental and spiritual health of both adults and children. While it is important to acknowledge our anxieties, we must also strive to get past it by having the right perspective. Things could always be worse. As Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said, “when one is content, little will suffice. But without contentment, nothing suffices” (Hamza Yusuf, Purification of the Heart, California: Sandala Inc., 2012, p.138). Therefore, we should train ourselves and encourage our children to be content with whatever that we are blessed with.