This is an article which is –in my view- related to many but not all parents in the UAE and many families in the gulf area.
The article is meant to help people paying attention to a hidden, often UN-talked about problem that is not addressed widely.
This will hopefully open a debate about this subject.
It can be a wake up call to many families who are unintentionally walking there children into potential difficulties and hardship that can potentially affect them for a long term.
Though My filed is in general, acute paediatrics, and in paediatric cardiology, this is related to a personal observation having been in this field for over 15 years in some of the highest quality institutions in the world.
As children tend to develop the subtle art of communications,, and the very fine art of articulation that gives them an edge In life in a very young age, they do that by absorbing the culture around them including the communication and the body languages surrounding.
They absorb every incident , every event including the personalities of people around them, mostly unintentionally.
This makes it important for all parents to be aware of the impact having the right environment has on children to help them grow healthy mind as well as body.
This is an observational review of the impact of current unique life style in an expat community in general.
This life style has contributed significantly to high number of communication and behavioral difficulties affecting children in young age .
many of these are misdiagnosed as autism or (attention deficit hyperactivity disorders) ADHD. the reality is this can be projected on various parts of the world.
Expat families are typically active parents, many of mixed back ground, in working age,
Mothers tend to work if given the chance, and many do have the chance .
Debating the rights or wrongs of the economy is beyond this article. though this has a fundamental effect on the shaping of this life style.
The income level and the labor cost has allowed a special life style in which many families can afford to employ maids to help in domestic tasks and in looking after children while parents are working away.
traditionally parents in general, and mothers in particular have cherished the task of looking after there children.
The details of looking after children such as changing nappies, comforting a crying child, watching a child’s thought processes develop.
Children interaction with surroundings has more to it than meets the eye. especially the impact of that environment on the child’s behavior him/herself.
Common seen is a family with maid/s looking after children who in turn spend most of there time watching TV, or playing computer games, not interested in interaction or teaming up with other children.
These children experience little time communicating appropriately using parental mother tongue language, can not communicate to maids who speak different language or poor English which seems the common ground for spoken languages.
Children tend to spend hours every day that eventually is a good part of their life in such surroundings.
A frequent seen in my clinic is the child preferring to seek refuge looking for comfort with the family’s maid rather than mother.
No matter how nice a maid is, allowing for exceptions, this in my view is less favorable for a child’s emotional development.
A child, who is not spoken to using one specific articulated language in a very young age, tends to grow up in a confused surrounding, will find it difficult to learn the subtlety of any one language
Adding to the language issue, is another as important one;
The absence or distortion of a barrier in the relationship between a child and his carer. Very quickly, many children realize that nannies/maids are not an authority figure that will guide them , but they are there to mostly do what the child wants.
Presence of an authority within the house tends to be limited to the evening when parents are back. But also by the time they have finished work, parents are missing there children, and not feeling able to refuse any of their requests.
Maids in general are not trained as nannies, nor empowered, and children sense that from a very young age.
The main problem:
There is a risk that some children grow up in an environment by which they do not have to communicate well in any language, they do not see articulation as part of their life in any language, especially if parents have two different back grounds and two different languages and communicate at home in a third middle ground language.
In a short period of time, children in such surroundings, tend to find it easy to order another human being around to do things for them without please or thank you.
We can see a pattern emerging here, the main message has to be
We are running the risk of growing insecure, unattached, poorly articulated children with poor communication skills if we do not pay attention to this issue.
Though each group of the population has specific characters set them apart from others, generally, the above is a common theme between many.
Children in this environment have a unique set of circumstances making them vulnerable and suffer from generalized symptoms and long term problems that require understanding and sometimes action.
The circumstances explained above do not apply to all children but significant number of them
Many other observational points can be highlighted, such as the confused identity many expats have which can have a major impact on cultural inheritance and generations feeling belonging to one culture or another.
In summery; I would urge every parent to spend as much time as possible with their children, to feel proud of there back ground and make sure there child does know this back ground.
Use your own language to speak to your child and feel free and happy doing so.
Having to spend time with children can never be subsidized by spending money on them… make time and think of the positive aspect of raising a child.
Prevention is far better than treatment
DR Talal Farha