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Thursday 10 September 2020

The Importance of Salat in Combating Childhood Anxiety

This article is by Guest Blogger, Humera Malik who is an author. Read her bio below. Here she talks about how praying can help ease your child's anxiety.

The main character in my new book is a Muslim boy named Zain, who becomes very frustrated and anxious due to a series of mishaps during the week. He then learns how prayer can help set things right. I was inspired to write this due in part to my own experience with using prayer to combat anxiety. 

One of my earliest childhood memories is of a night when I couldn’t fall asleep because I was worried about an upcoming spelling test. I was just five years old and experiencing an episode of anxiety! A couple years later, I was late to school by a few minutes and my teacher made me stand in front of the entire school leaving me humiliated and worried about the possibility of having that happen to me again! So, believe me when I say, anxiety in children is very real. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one in eight children suffer from an anxiety disorder. That is not taking account of the episodes of anxiety that almost every child experiences at some point in their life. 

So what does Islam say about relieving anxiety? 

The Holy Quran points us to prayer at times of stress: 
Verily! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort. (Quran, Al Ra’d 13:28) 
And now, countless studies have also found that prayer alleviates anxiety. But there is an important point to consider in the tarbiyat, or spiritual training, of our children. According to a 2014 paper by the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the effectiveness of prayer as a stress relief mechanism depends on two factors: 
  • The person’s relationship with God (a secure attachment to Allah is developed by turning to Him frequently in prayer); and 
  • The “personality” of the God they believe in (that is, for those who believe that Allah is loving, all-hearing, gracious, and merciful, the act of praying will ease their anxiety). 
So, if one is accustomed to praying to Allah regularly, with the belief that Allah is responsive and compassionate, then for them, the act of praying is likely to relieve their anxiety. (All this is of course second to Allah answering those prayers!) 

How can we impress upon our children the value of prayer? 
  • Speak about Allah lovingly and count His innumerable favors on your family. 
  • Pray in the presence of your young children and, as they get older, have them pray with you. 
  • Just as you ensure your older children eat three meals a day, ensure that they pray five times a day. 
  • Let them see you stop what you are doing, so you can offer Salaat. If you honor prayer, they will too. 
  • Verbalize when you feel worried about something and tell your children, ‘I am going to pray to Allah to help me with this.’ All children feel anxiety and it’s helpful to know so do their parents and learn how they deal with it—prayer. 
  • Sit down with your children and decide what to pray for before you start Salaat. 
  • Let your children experience prayer “wins”: for example, if they ask for something that you know they will be getting, you might tell them to pray for it beforehand. If they pray for something simple, like everyone’s health, take a moment to reflect the following day that everyone is indeed healthy! 
As for 7-year-old me, I prayed from that day on that I would never be late to school and kept offering that prayer for many years. For the most part, that prayer was answered, and on the one or two occasions that I was late, it no longer concerned me as I knew I could just pray about it once more! 

Before closing, I want to note that while prayer is a tried and true method of relieving anxiety, at times, more may be needed. Parents should feel secure in exploring anything from simple techniques to distract children from stress triggers up to professional help and medication to address serious disorders. Ultimately, it is the grace of Allah and His remembrance that brings comfort to our hearts. 

Do you have any tips to combat anxiety? If so, please share in the Comments! 

Humera Malik is a children’s book author, her work includes the bestseller, The Story of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw). Her new release, Be Sure to Pray, Zain!, encourages little Muslims to pray regularly and teaches them that God is loving and answers our prayers. Follow her on Instagram: @BooksForLittleMuslims.

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