Becoming an Expat Family – Moving your Children to Dubai
Becoming an expat is exciting and daunting all at the same time. Children process things differently however, their world is small, cosy, familiar and comfortable. We spend an awful lot of time as parents building a routine for our children and moving to a foreign country can threaten to upset this and put undue stress on a child. Although moving with your kids to Dubai was initially your decision, you can and should involve them in the decision making process with regards to aspects of their move.
Time is key. Children need time to understand and accept change. By doing as many of the following as possible may help to ease your children into the process of becoming an expat family in Dubai;
1. Involve the whole family especially Grandparents in supporting the move to Dubai.
2. Involve the children actively in researching the United Arab Emirates.
3. Give them the chance to ask all the questions they may have about Dubai and try to answer these honestly.
4. Prepare them for possible language barriers, try to get them excited about learning Arabic and or other languages. Look into getting a tutor or taking lessons and perhaps you can take a course together.
5. Involve them in deciding what they will take to Dubai or leave behind. Allow them some decision-making. It will help them feel that they have some say and control over what is happening to them. Encourage them to donate unwanted items to charity.
6. Ask them what they’ll miss most. Research if those things are available in Dubai, chances are they will be. Take those that are not readily available in Dubai with you if possible – familiar things will comfort them in their new Dubai home.
7. If there are things you must leave behind, talk about saying goodbye to them on several occasions, plan how or when to say goodbye, progressively distance them mentally from the object (or person) over a period of time.
8. Get in touch with possible schools and teachers in Dubai and involve them in communicating with them prior to your move. If possible, try to establish a pen pal (or chat or facebook) relationship with one or more kids at their new school prior to moving to Dubai.
9. Help them make a concrete plan for how they will communicate with their friends and family back home. Assure them you’ll help them make that possible.
10. Discuss how you will participate in helping them make new friends and/or adjust to their new school in Dubai. You may be surprised to find some kids would rather mum or dad NOT enter with them or hold their hand or kiss them goodbye on their first day. Expect it to be difficult and there to be tears. Give it time.
11. Try to help create a sense of excitement about their new Dubai home. Find out about fun and entertaining or unique things and places Dubai has. Use verbs, adjectives and adverbs that are positive, make a plan for visiting or finding them once you’ve settled in Dubai and keep your promises when you do.
12. Help them feel safe by discussing possible situations you’ll encounter in the UAE in real terms, especially with older kids and teens. Let them know your family has a concrete plan for staying away from potentially volatile situations, discuss the reasons behind them (such as Islam, modesty, Ramadan, etc.), let them help research so they’ll understand them.
13. Tell your kids exactly how long you will be in the UAE (if you know) and when you’ll be returning home. It gives them something to look forward to, and most importantly let’s them know goodbyes are not forever.
14. Research extracurricular activities your kids might participate in in Dubai (sports, dance, theater, horseback riding, volunteering, etc.) Do this prior to moving. Discuss their options with them. This can give them something to look forward to.
15. Let them spend time with the people they will be leaving behind. Do this while preparing them mentally for departure. Participate in talking about your move to Dubai with their friends. Their friends may be feeling apprehension and sadness too. If you can answer some of their questions as well, they may willingly be helpful in preparing your kids (or at least not work against you) prior to departure.
16. Most importantly, involve them often in discussions about how they are adapting to the IDEA of moving to Dubai. Spend time with them and encourage them to ask questions. The more you can answer prior to your move, the less insecure they will feel when they arrive.
17. Create a sense of excitement and adventure and ward off potential future problems.
18. Read up and learn about TCKs (third culture kids). It’s very important as a parent you learn to understand the uniqueness of your expatriate children’s upbringing.
19. Your child needs to know you MUST live within your means and it helps to let your child in on what your means are (in a general manner). You are not on holiday. Be firm and informative about what your financial situation is, how you plan to live, the lifestyle they can expect to have overseas, and how you’ve prepared or planned your wealth management. When you set up your new bank account take them along and open a savings account for them too.
20. Listen to them! Listen to them! Listen to them! There are so many things you can do, as many options as there are children. The best thing you can do (and most important) is LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS.
Moving stress presents in so many ways with children. Look out for sudden behavioral changes ie: bed wetting, moodiness and changes in sleep patterns. Moving to Dubai is a challenge but if you are vigilant and communicating all will be well. Expat children develop a cultural awareness and it stands them in good stead for later years. They become very adaptable and intrepid young adults. It all ends well.