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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Parenting in the UAE: How multiculturalism affects many parents

Dubai: Your kid’s lunchbox might have some chicken curry with tabbouleh on the side. Or maybe you decide to use labneh for sushi and roll it in zaatar because your son is craving Japanese food? Living in the UAE exposes parents and children to so many different cultures, cuisines and ways of life, and there are aspects of a multicultural environment that can affect your parenting style, even if you don’t realize it.

Gulf News spoke to four parents raising children in the UAE about their unique experiences as “Emirati parents”.

Room for some spice?

The daughter of Filipino national Shryl Dwyer was born in Dubai and moved to Hong Kong at the age of four. She stayed there for the next five years, embracing the culture and language of the land. Encouraging openness to different cultures and respecting diversity has always been an approach Dwyer took as a parent, she told Gulf News.

“My daughter speaks Mandarin and Cantonese and usually eats Chinese food,” Dwyer said.

Sheryl Dwyer (right) with her husband and daughter.

Image Credit: Supplied

So when she finally moved back to Dubai to join her husband after five years, the opportunities to experience other cultures were greatly enhanced due to the UAE’s multiculturalism.

“Dubai is more diverse, there are more opportunities, and contemporary children are more open [to diversity]said Dwyer.

Take food as an example. Dwyer feels that being back in Dubai has also made a huge difference to her daughter’s taste buds.

“When we were in Hong Kong, she never ate spicy food, but now, she likes Arabic food and Indian food. I always knew how to cook, but my cooking style is more Middle Eastern now. I make my own bread, tartar Buhler, with a lot of veggies…the country has a huge influence on what you eat and how you cook. It’s definitely going to change the menu we have at home,” Dwyer said.

But this way of embracing other cultures goes beyond food. According to Dwyer, it also directly impacted her parenting style.

My cooking style is now more Middle Eastern. I make my own bread, make tabbouleh, use a lot of veggies…the country has a huge influence on what you eat and cook.It will definitely change our menu at home

– Sheryl Dwyer, mother of a 14-year-old girl

“The way we’re parenting now is trying to have a lot of open conversations with her. She’s 14 now, for kids that age, outspoken, opinionated. We try to work that out by listening,” she says.

Looking back on his own childhood, Dwyer feels his methods differed from those of his parents. For example, the parenting process takes the child’s voice and perspective into account more than before.

“Just because she’s a child, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a voice. Her voice, her opinion, her point of view is important, but we always try to tell her that when we hear your voice, there is something very Good respect,” Dwyer said.

Finding the balance between giving children freedom and keeping them safe can be tricky, but she thinks parents from different cultures seem to be going through similar challenges. She learned this from her Whatsapp group conversations with other parents.

“We have created mom groups where we can share our experiences. In this group we have Canadians, Serbs, Egyptians, Emiratis, Indians, Australians and other nationalities, we have the same Questions and questions,” she said.

What this prompted her to do was give her daughter a free-judgmental space to share her thoughts and experiences.

“I just sit and listen and that’s what they want – we listen to them without judging them. Whether she’s right or wrong, just sit and listen to her. That’s what we try to do, “she says.

Promote children’s language skills

For Deng Jie, a 34-year-old Chinese national, the move to Dubai has given him the opportunity to let his daughters grow through the experience.

“One of the things I’ve noticed with young Chinese parents like us is that when preparing meals for our kids, we emphasize healthy eating, and in my opinion, the UAE has influenced us in this regard. For example, vegetables, fruits, The freshness and hygiene standards of dairy products and meat are very high, which encourages us to cook more healthy food for our daughter,” said Deng.

While the two meals they cook for their daughter are usually Chinese—whether it’s chow mein, fried rice or dumplings—Emirates has also expanded the Deng’s menu.

“We are exposed to so many different cuisines here every day, and we naturally want to add other cuisines to my daughter’s meals, not just Chinese. For example, our nanny is foreign, so she cooks foreign dishes for her children from time to time . Plus, we can easily explore other cuisines outside of our home in our free time,” Deng said.

He feels that exposure to such international cuisines will not only help boost the health of children, but also make it easier for them to move to any other country in the future as adults.

“No matter where they choose to live, they don’t feel that food is foreign to them because they are used to different tastes,” he said.

Another unique Emirati experience for Deng is that he doesn’t have to worry too much about his daughters not learning English or their native language well – the UAE gives them the opportunity to learn both. His daughters are also familiar with the Chinese spoken at home, thanks to the English-speaking environment provided by their daughters’ British Curriculum school. There are also several Chinese language learning institutions in the UAE to choose from if they wish to learn a higher level of language.

“Seeing that our 6 year old daughter can now speak and think in both Chinese and English, and correct our broken English now and then, as we struggle to respond to her in English, is something that is fun and proud for us. languages,” he said with a smile.

“They are likely to be a more capable generation than us because of the environment in the UAE,” he added.

enjoy the diversity of life

The opportunities the Deng family got as parents at school, and through the social activities they carried out, also helped their 6-year-old eldest daughter Lu Xin grow into a personality.

They are likely to be a more capable generation than us because of the environment in the UAE.

– Jie Deng, a 34-year-old Chinese expatriate and father of two.

“Another special thing about parenting in the UAE is that we host multicultural social events at home for our daughter because her circle of friends is multicultural – her classmates are from different countries. On her birthday this year, She “asked” us to invite her school friends over, so we ended up with seven little balls of energy rolling around in our house. They were from the UAE, India, Pakistan and a few other countries. It was a delightful sight because They don’t seem to differentiate themselves from each other.

“Through these social events, we have noticed that our daughter has become more expressive – she is not shy around people of different nationalities, which I admire because when I first met a foreigner, I’m not as confident in conversations anymore. Her social skills and outgoing personality will help her in her future career, especially if she chooses to live in a multicultural place.

“If she chooses to live in a country with a single-ethnic majority population, like China, then she will need to figure out her own way of adapting to that. As parents, we are not nervous because she is now learning how to adapt to different scenarios , she will get used to adapting to different environments.

“Overall, I attribute these positive results in parenting to the environment in the UAE. If we were in another country, we wouldn’t be here.”

When tolerance becomes a way of life

Mohamed Saleem Allawi, a 38-year-old father of three, said the UAE seemed to make him more tolerant and open as a parent.

“I feel like I’m a lot more friendly with the kids and enjoy talking to them. Even when they’re young, it shouldn’t be a one-way, top-down conversation. That’s what I think is the main difference as a parent because I In the UAE,” he said.

“At home, their approach to children is often instruction-based—’do x, do y… don’t ‘ask why’. But I’ve realized that talking is the best way to convince children to change them and consider their point of view best way,” he said.

“I’m lucky that I live in the UAE. Especially for children, it’s a safe country with a lot of regulations on how to protect them and how to take care of them. The country actually protects the children in many ways and gives them priority rights,” he said.

I realized that talking is the best way to convince kids to change them and consider their point of view.

– Mohamed Saleem Allawi, 38-year-old Egyptian expatriate and father of three.

Safety reassures many parents, such as Farah Arbani, a 35-year-old Pakistani mother of two.

“Just the other day, my sister-in-law and I were talking about her experience with her son getting lost in the global village. Anywhere else in the world, if your child gets lost, it would be a traumatic experience to say the least. But Because it’s UAE they have a proper process for everything. Parents went to local office and child was at another location. Officials made sure parents shared their IDs, confirmed their identities when their son When brought in they could see he was accompanied by a female nurse and given some chips to eat while his parents were being found. You won’t find children in this kind of care anywhere else in the world, ’ said Albany.

Farah Arbani with her daughters Fatima, 7, (left) and Samarah, 2, (right).

Image Credit: Supplied

This sense of security directly impacted the space Arbani was able to give her daughter to enjoy experiences she would not normally allow, fearing for her safety.

“Here, she was able to talk to strangers more confidently, and even went to the park in our building by herself for a while. I found myself allowing my daughter to experience more things than I did when she was her age. I felt like I could Letting them make those choices, I can make those decisions as a parent. So, I feel like she’s more independent and better able to assess the situation. It’s about the sense of security that the UAE provides,” she said.

This approach of welcoming everyone, every culture and every experience has been a game changer for Abani. From parenting tips to recipes, the multicultural environment allows Arbani to practice practices that would not be possible anywhere else in the world.

“This approach helps in every way, not just education or culture, there’s no topic under the sun that you can’t incorporate into your life,” she said.

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