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An Open Letter to Parents of Muslim Teens

An Open Letter to Parents of Muslim Teens

Are you the parent or guardian of Muslim teens?

This must be a scary time for you.

You must spend a lot of time worrying about the potential danger out there for your teens. Yet, you feel powerless with little to no control over what goes on in their lives. You know that things are now much more different from how it used to be when you were growing up, so you need a different game plan.

Here’s what you think:

”He has ear phones plugged in most of the day even when we are together”.

”She’s glued to her phone whenever she’s at home”.

”He seems to be hanging out with a new crowd but won’t talk about who they are”.

”She isn’t allowed on social media yet and she insists she is not on any, but her siblings say she is”.

”His door is locked for long hours”.

”She’s always getting into trouble at school”.

”He’s spending very long hours at his football practice, his coach says not to worry, but I hardly see him studying and interacting with family when home”.

I hear a lot of concerns like these and many more from parents of Muslim teens, and they are well justified.

So, how do you fulfill your role to the maximum best ~ and build a positive, rewarding relationship?

On empowering Muslim teens

Dear Parent of Muslim Teen,

Your teen is going through a lot of storm and stress in his/her life. And may feel alone and misunderstood dealing with issues from:

> School to work;
> Deen to lifestyle;
> Friends to family;
> Physical to mental health;
> Cloudy emotions to fun feelings;
> Education to talents/ skills building.

So while you as the parent go through great stress trying to understand and connect with them – they may be feeling as though they have been left out of your life, and its not you feeling left out of your teen’s life.

You need to build bridges not barriers.

Why?

Because a healthy and empowering relationship with your teen will give them a firm foundation to grow from confident and reflective teens into confident, proactive and responsible Muslim adults. They certainly will not get it right all the time but at least they will have a positive pillar of support for when they fail, feel fear or get frustrated.

And for when life generally gets rough and tough. When you empower your teen, you teach them to grow and thrive despite what life brings.

It all starts with a positive parent/ teen relationship. You, first and foremost can make the best of your time and relationship with your teen, NOT the school, teachers, masjid or neighbours. It is your responsibility as a Muslim parent. You are are a shepherd and will be asked.

Remember you are accountable first!

Reflection

It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (SAW) said:

”Beware. every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. The Caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs). A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral well-being). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). A slave is a guardian over the property of his master and shall be questioned about it (as to how he safeguarded his trust). Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

 

On building the best of relationships with your teen

Dear Parent of Muslim Teen,

Here are 8 tools you can use to build a positive relationship with your teen. Use one, use them all; use according to your needs.

Good communication

Good communication is key to any healthy relationship.

It involves active listening, empathy and being non judgmental.

Always leave open the doors of communication with your teen on any issue – big or small. So you can address concerns when they arise eg drugs, digital addiction, bad company and so on.

With easy going communication and open mindedness you can spot mood swings, mental and physical health concerns, school & work stress; and all other issues that may be bothering them. The earlier you note these issues and nab them, the better for you and your teen.

Be available and willing to listen and discuss their hopes, fears and expectations.

Your challenge: Ask your teen about his/ her day and listen with ‘open ears’ without interrupting.

Spend quality time together

Create opportunities for connecting and forming good rapport with your teen. It could be through family time or one-on-one. Make sure its quality time with no digital interruptions. If possible keep all gadgets away from your special times together.

You can:

~ Hold regular family circles to discuss current issues, hadiths, lessons from the Quran, read and review books, profound incidences front the Seerah etc
~ Have family meetings so everyone can chip in and have their say.
~ Create fun, positive memories together.
~ Pray, play and learn together.
~ Attend prayers at the masjid.
~ Go for programs together.

The ideas are endless.

Your challenge: Have you seen your teen today? It’s time to touch base – just chat or complete a chore together. Keep all gadgets away.

Know their friends and families

Teens need good friendships in their life. Because like it or not, they will likely prefer the company of their friends and peers to that of parents/ siblings right now.

Don’t try to keep them away from friends but discuss and encourage the value of good company beyond this dunya. Do not watch them go the wrong way with their clique of friends.

You have the duty to guide and direct them and watch out for unusual habits they may be picking up from such friends. You should understand their friendships should not clash with your relationship, rather it should complement it. As a parent you should know their friends and those in their close circle of influence.

Invite their friends over, chat with them, know their background and if possible interact with their families as well. A genuine friendship with your teen’s friends and their families can grow into important bonds that last a lifetime.

Your challenge: List 2-3 of your teen’s close friends. Write as much as you can about them on a page. How much do you know about them beyond their names and nicknames? Its time to get talking to your teen.

Show a genuine interest in their hobbies

What does your teen like doing? Do you know what s/he is great at and really proud of doing?

Whether its sports, art or reading, find time to share in their hobby.

Watch them play a match or practice. Ask them to review a book they just read or read along with them so you can discuss it. Join them in creating an art masterpiece – you can learn from them while they become your teacher.

Your challenge: Arrange a date with your teen to do what they love or watch them do it.

Be true to your role as a conscious Muslim parent

Be consistent and persevere even when it seems they are not listening or interested in your words, love and presence. It’s nothing personal and likely just a phase or issue they are dealing with. Be present, available emotionally to deal with negative behaviours when they pop up.

Create boundaries because you are the parent and adult here. Whether it has to do with positive and moderate use of digital media. Or respecting house rules.

Accept you are imperfect and work-in-progress but that life is all about learning. Show them that learning continues for life.

Your challenge: Replace one negative digital habit with a positive one and get everyone on board to make it into a house rule. Eg all phones/ gadgets should be kept away at meal times.

Show mercy, good manners and morals

The sunnah is filled with examples of kindness, good manners and morals with others.

For example;

  • Say salaam when entering your home.
  • Apologise when you are in the wrong.
  • Praise them when required and show respect when deserved.
  • Say salaam and seek permission before entering your teen’s room.
  • Show love and mercy with smiles, hugs, kisses and friendly disposition.
  • Don’t lie, gossip or back bite others. Rather tell them about your own growing up years, experiences and lessons in life.
  • Overlook and let go of their little mistakes and errors. Don’t blame, condemn or compare them to others – whether friends, siblings, neighbours or relatives.

Exemplifying such mercy, kindness and good morals will help them build their self esteem, interpersonal skills and confidence level.

Your challenge: Agree on one sunnah regarding good manners that is missing in your home today – and aim to revive it. Like saying the greetings of peace upon entering the home. Start practicing today.

Be an exemplary model

Practice what you preach. You are an ambassador and your young ones look up to you even if you don’t realise it.

So walk your talk.

Its a tough call to expect your teens to be well behaved, responsible and balanced individuals when you are an exact opposite. Do not say ‘do this’, while you are busy doing something else. It will make things so confusing for them and lead to dissonance and mistrust. I hear this many times from aggrieved youth.

If anything, their mistrust will lead them to do the exact opposite f what you request. Plus create a big barrier in your relationship.

You are only human – so take time to rest and take breaks. Take care of yourself physically, spiritually and emotionally just as you advice and expect your teen to do.

Your challenge: Tell your teen something and go on to do the same thing as you said you will. For example when you say keep your phone away during prayer times ensure you do the same. Do not say, ”I just need to answer this important call today around prayer time”.

Link them to Allah (SWT) not you alone

Its important to link your teens to Allah (SWT) from an early age, not you alone. You are their guardian but not their Ultimate Sustainer.

Let them understand that Islam is a way of Islam and provides solution for every aspect of their life. Don’t overprotect them, rather push them to learn and make mistakes. Do not be a helicopter parent.

Give advice in good and not-so-good times. Be there as a support/ pillar but give them space to grow. Respect their opinion even when wrong and correct them in a gentle way – giving them alternatives and reminding them of their duties as a believer.

Make du’a for them in secret and in open. Teach them to make duas for themselves, as Du’a is a weapon none can take away.

Your challenge: Buy a copy of the du’a book, Hisnul Muslim for your teen – I highly recommend this if you do nothing else. And make it a duty to learn one Prophetic dua along with them per week. Commit to discussing the hidden and manifest benefits of such supplications. E.g., salatul Istikhara when faced with making any decision.

Reflection

Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas (RA) reported:

One day I was behind the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, and he said to me:

“O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice] : Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you (have need to) ask, ask of Allah; and if you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that even if the Nation (or the whole community) were to gather together to benefit you with something, they would not benefit you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with something, they would not be able to harm you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” (At-Tirmidhi)

We are living in challenging times, but what is the positive way forward for the parents of Muslim teens?

Love and care for your teens but remember to empower them for success in both worlds. And safeguard them against the evil and misguidance of our present times.

READ ~ A Letter to My Teen Self: On Having Faith and Making the Best of the Teen Years

In what other ways do you strive to build a positive relationship with your Muslim teen(s)?

Comments

  1. Jazakallahukhyran. May Allah continue to bless you and grant you hikmah. Ameen. Please, at what age would you advise i give my first child a “smart” phone. He is 15 this year and in SS2. In your answer, kindly elaborate what he needs a phone for. Also put in context that most of his colleagues have phones when they are on holidays (boarding school does not allow phones) and they are fast to reach out for their parents phones when they have the opportunity. My humble opinion is to use it as a gift when he gets admitted into the university but most muslim parents feel this is old fashioned. Please, we will appreciate your sincere advise

    • Amina Edota says:

      Wa iyyak. I believe there is no right or wrong age, it is a decision you would need to take as a family – with clear boundaries and consequences laid out of course. Weigh the pros and cons together and involve him in the decision making. Don’t rely on what works for others as you well know that what you want for your child may be different, as is your family life. Do what works for you.

      What you also need to realise is that at some point you will need to trust your child and let go because you cannot police him always. A good remedy for this even from a much younger age is to link him to Allah (swt) in a non threatening way. Let him understand that he has 2 recording angels. And think about it as a father of a 15 year old, do you view him as a child or a young adult? Does he have a right mix of fun and feel good activities (both indoors and outdoors) during the holidays? Or does he get cooped up indoors and expected to be a goody lad all through the break while clicking/ swiping away at a digital device? Too many times, parents leave their children at the mercy of technology all day ~ 24/7, all holiday and wonder what went wrong. Technology is no substitute for love, care, positive attention and quality family time.

      Ask yourself, would you he rather starts practising self control, responsibility and staying within limits while under your care or while alone at Uni with the novelty of having a smart phone for the first time in life? As I said already, I don’t think there’s right or wrong here. Personally, I love technology and look forward to seeing more youth harness its power in great ways – for design, coding, entrepreneurship, skills building and much more. BUT, this must be done with discipline, good habits and taqwa.

      You, have a HUGE role to play here as a parent, modelling the positive use of smart phones/ digital devices. I wrote guest posts relating to this over on Ayeina.com and IOU blog. Finally remember yourself at that age, and approach your son with empathy on his daily struggles such as smart phone use. Talk to him about such struggles and make him understand you know the pressures he’s facing. Encourage him to do good in your presence and absence; reinforce his good character traits and let him know how much you believe in him.

      May Allah guide our young ones and keep them firm on the right path.

      At the end of the day, you know your son best. Support him as best as you can in your role and let him know you are always there for him..

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