“But I’m bored!”

These are the words that most mothers dread hearing from their children, especially during the holidays.

With school and madrasah being closed, it is no secret that young children need an outlet for their exuberant energy. Exacerbating the situation is that due to their short-attention spans, even if children are assigned an activity or are given some toy to play with, they rapidly lose interest in it, after which the dreaded words are soon heard again – “But I’m bored!”

While children may be on holiday, in all probability, the mothers are not, and so they still need to attend to the cleaning and cooking and other household responsibilities. Faced with this challenge, many mothers opt to take the easy way out. They either place a device in their children’s hands and rely on the device to keep them entertained, or they send them to their friend’s house for some time. Some parents may even give their children a little money and drop them off at the mall for the day, trusting them to feed and entertain themselves and stay out of trouble.

This approach, though apparently gratifying in the short term, leads to innumerable long-term problems and ill-consequences.

Our children are our own, personal responsibility. Just as ensuring their physical safety and bodily health is our duty, it is also our duty to see to their Deeni and imaani health. When we will be held accountable, on the Day of Qiyaamah, for the manner in which we raised our children, then we cannot afford to take any shortcuts or opt for any quick-fixes – especially when the quick-fixes have long-term repercussions and long-lasting ill-effects.

The harms of leaving children unattended with devices have been discussed by many ‘Ulama on many occasions, and have also been expounded on in many articles. Even psychologists are sounding the alarm bells on the long-term implications of resorting to this quick fix. Not only is the child’s physical health worse off, but his mental and emotional health suffer as well – as seen in these children who then become withdrawn, moody, antisocial, etc.

However, the most dire consequence is the damage to the child’s Deen, as through these devices, many children will be exposed to music, videos, social media and other similar elements that will lead to their imaan being corroded and basic beliefs being eroded.

If any parent wishes to send their child to a friend’s home, then we must first ensure that the Deen of the child will be safe. We must not send our children to a home where there is a television, music is played, people dress incorrectly, there is insufficient precaution shown to eating halaal food, there is no importance shown to salaah, etc. If we have a son who is a little big, we should be cautious in sending him to a home where there are girls as they will easily fall into sin.

Giving our children the credit card, or a handful of cash, and dropping them off somewhere for the day is a sure recipe for disaster. The potential for these children to fall into sin and haraam is so obvious that it need not be elaborated.

At this point, one may ask, “In that case, how can I keep my child occupied in the holidays?” The answer is that there is no shortcut. Though bigger boys may be encouraged to go out in jamaat for some time, ultimately, we are the parents. It is up to us to spend time with our children and to ensure that we are a positive part of their lives and a positive influence on their upbringing.

When we wake up for Tahajjud or Fajr Salaah, we should lovingly wake our children up as well. After performing the Fajr Salaah, we can sit together, even for a short while, and engage in some zikr and recite the Quraan Majeed. If the father has a habit of going for a short walk after fajr, he now has the opportunity to take his son with him.

When the mother commences her daily work, she can involve her young daughters. If she has a small toddler, she can fill a bucket with a little water, place it outside, fill it with a few plastic dishes, and let her daughter help in ‘washing the dishes’. Similarly, she may give her a small broom to ‘help’ in the sweeping. When rolling rotis, she may give the daughter her own ball of dough to roll. These simple activities, to a small mind, are fascinating, fun and enjoyable – especially when they are done with the mother.

If the son is big enough, the father may even take him to the shop or to work. The father may give him some small work to do, such as stocking the shelf, with the promise of a small wage at the end of the day.

Keeping the children occupied in this manner is not only a means of teaching them something practical and productive – it is also a means of the parents bonding with their children and spending time with them in a positive and loving manner.

The only requirement for this is patience. With today’s lifestyle, everyone is always in a rush, so the small toddler, who wants help rolling her roti, is regarded as a hindrance by her own mother. Sadly, instead of the mother making this time for her daughter, she would rather brush her off and entrust her to the iPad…

Our children are the legacy and investment that we will leave behind after our death. Time spent with them, showing them love and attention, is not time wasted – it is time spent most profitably and rewardingly.

May Allah Ta‘ala assist us all to be good parents, and may He safeguard our children from all vice and sin, aameen.