Challenges facing expat children in Dubai and the woes of making new friends

2 Jan, 2015 Categories: Blog

For adults, braving new territory and relocating is a frightening experience. New laws, customs, friendships, relationships and moving country can be a huge challenge for everyone. Leaving family, friends, your life that you’ve built in your home country and having to re-establish yourself in a new place can be very anxiety provoking. The thought of having to make new friends, maybe change curriculum at school, settle into your new house and adjusting to new laws and ways of living can be a struggle. However, it may be quite reassuring to think that many other people will also be in your position.

When I moved to the Middle East – Dubai to be more precise – a few months ago from the UK, nothing felt as jarring as having Christmas away from my friends and family this year. But imagine the impact of having to spend a holiday season or a lifetime away from close friends and family has on children and adolescents. Apart from schooling and managing logistics, have you prepared your children for the changes they’re about to face?

Talk it out

The first step is to talk through your child’s worries and concerns. If they find that they’re afraid of not making friendships, let alone long lasting ones, reassure them otherwise.

Find playgroups or parents of children with similar ages and interests

For young people making new friends, or worrying that you won’t be able to, can be tough. However the more anxious you are about it may make it a little tougher for yourself and for them. Reassure your child that the best thing to do may be to throw themselves into social situations, introduce yourself to new people and get talking may be one of the fastest way to make new friends. Most people will find this difficult but it’s important to try and not put it off, you may notice that your anxiety about this increases and when this happens it may be even tougher to start new conversations. Push yourself to talk, explore your homerooms at school, try to engage with your peers, even if it’s a simple ‘hello’ in the morning.

Take part in after school activities

Adolescents and teenagers may not want to admit that they’re nervous about making new friends. Instead, encourage them to join after school activities that would interest them: dance lessons, drama classes, or sports memberships will help them find an affinity group that will encourage social relationships. Remind them that if they talk to people, then people are far more likely to talk to them too. Communication has to be two way. Programmes, such as this <<link to lose your worries page>>, may also allow your teenager to meet and engage with adolescents facing similar worries.

When overcoming adjusting to a new environment, the best thing to do is to try and re-establish yourself, and this can only be done if people know who you are. Be positive, engage people, go to social events where possible and be curious about your peers. It shows that you’re interested in getting to know them, too!

At Camali we have a six week long young person’s group programme that will help anxious and worried teens reduce symptoms of anxiety and teach each individual adaptive methods to manage their worries. Find out about the next programme if you think that it’s right for you.