Monday, May 10, 2010

Expat children face serious identity crisis

The Gulf Today, 25 April 2010

Termed as third culture kids, the children of expatriates living in a country like the UAE with a cross-cultural environment of mingling with people who come from more than 170 countries, face serious identity crisis, according to an expert.
Growing up among world kids can be, of course, rewarding to expat children as they are enriched by the many diverse experiences. On the other hand, they could end up become strangers not only among other expat children but also among children of their native countries, said Rebecca Grappo, a certified educational planner and consultant.
According to Grappo, who now resides in Dubai after living and practising in countries as a comprehensive educational strategist, the third culture kids build relationships with all of the international cultures, while not having full ownership in any.
She was speaking to The Gulf Today on the sidelines of an international conference on effective parenting held in Dubai on Saturday. The conference discussed the modern day parental dilemma of balancing love and anger and applying democratic parenting principles to raise the kids who think about tomorrow.
"As a result of their living in changing environments, they often develop a curious and active mind. On the other hand, the third culture kids experience reverse culture shock, when they go back to their home country to pursue higher studies. They try to fit in but often find it difficult to do so," pointed out Grappo.
"The mobile families want to ensure that their children's educational needs are met both at home and abroad. They are both traditional and non-traditional. Internationally, the mobile families are always in a state of transition," she noted.
"As they spend a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents' culture, they wonder where they belong, and don't understand why they feel so different from their peers when they return to the country of their passport. This is because emotional and physical status of the home may not be the same," she added.
"The good news is that such kids have friends all over the world, and the bad news is that their friends are all over the world. They invest heavily in relationships, also they are so tired of goodbyes that they become reluctant to invest in new relationships at their homeland," stated Grappo.
She warned that failure to adequately process their feelings or losses can lead to other emotions including anger, depression, denial, withdrawal from activities, rebellion, or self-destructive behaviour.
"Therefore, parents should help them bring out the best of these experiences and minimise and cope with the negatives. The third culture kids going back to their home country to attend college or university should be given proper guidelines," she advises.
"Moreover, the expatriate kids have to be provided with lessons from the early stages on the culture, tradition, language, culinary habits, religious and social values of their country of origin. They have to be properly guided through the transition in a way that enhances their resilience," she advised.
According to her, it's a good idea for the family to discuss the bumps in the road ahead and make a plan for how they will overcome them.
Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of the Office of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said, while speaking at the conference that parenting starts from the moment the baby is conceived.
"The parenting should only be up to the age of seven years. From seven to 14 years, the parents should be their teachers, and after the age of the 14 the children should be treated as friends by the parents," he opined.
He said that the mother is a sacred entity, quoting the Islamic concept of the mother, in her feet the paradise lies.
"Implementing the benefits of modern technology in the academic arena is also significant in raising the children free of hassles and burdens of the traditional concept of learning methods," he pointed out.
The experts participating at the conference organised by Dubai-based Ishara Consultants, included Dr Onita Nakra from University of Minnesota in USA, Clinical Psychologist Dr Saliha Afridi and Dr Samira Moosa, Head of Early Childhood Education at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman.
They lectured on what triggers anger in a parent and resentment in a child, hidden feelings of frustration that often rise to the surface even in the most loving of parents, raising encouraged children, using foundational parenting skills to increase the confidence of parents, developing positive relations with children, identifying, understanding, and managing mistaken goals of child's misbehavior and helping children and adolescents to think about the future in a positive way.

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