Monday, 24 June 2013

Parenting in UAE

Experts tell us about the challenges of bringing up a child in the UAE

One of the biggest challenges of adult life in the UAE — and particularly for expats residing here — is parenting young children in the multicultural and hectic environment in the UAE. Exposed to a multitude of influences, nationalities and cultures, parenting styles and behaviours seem 
to undergo a change here, in keeping with the external factors that influence both child and parent here.

We take a closer look at the issues and situations that pose unique challenges and question marks for those among us who are parents in the UAE, when it comes to the upbringing and wellbeing of our children.

Parenting Techniques

Carmen Benton is the Parenting Educator at LifeWorks Counselling Dubai, with a 20-year career as an educator. She has counselled parents in the UAE on issues ranging from discipline to learning and specific expatriate parenting problems.

The biggest specific challenge of the UAE parent, Carmen says, is the multicultural environment we live in. But to start with, “Whether parents are aware of it or not, we are influenced by a 
number of things, the largest being how we were parented ourselves. Given the gap between the time we were parented and becoming parents ourselves, parenting styles have changed considerably. What’s different about parenting in the UAE, and typical of the expatriate enc-laves we live in, is the peer group influence, and particular issues that crop when children come together from diff-erent family and societal backgrounds and expectations.”

According to Carmen, some cultures value education highly, placing a large emphasis on academics. But given the mixing of nationalities here, we’re 
creating our own Third Culture in the UAE, and that in itself is a challenge for parents — to bring up their kids in this new environment away from their 
home countries.

Lifestyles differ, for one. “For example, I pick my son up from his play group for dinner at 6 and then bedtime at 7.30, but some of his friends are just heading out to the swimming pool then — for them, bedtime could be at 9 pm or even later. Whether you’re an expat or an 
Emirati, you are raising your child in a multicultural way, and we need to adapt our way around that.”

A major challenge for parents, says Carmen, is early years’ education, and the importance we accord it. “In the UAE, it’s common for children under 3 to go to nursery or preschool. While we believe it’s good and acceptable for children, this is not necessarily backed by research. We believe in it as an educational model, and as a quality childcare environment, and call this an early start learning, whereas it could be provided at home. We believe early years’ education depicts good parenting, only because that’s what everyone does now,” says Carmen.

“Our children are also heavily affected by the environment we live in — an urba-nised desertscape. Kids don’t have the regular outdoors experiences of natural playgrounds and engaging with nature that we might have had back in our 
home countries.

“As far as parenting behaviours go, what I perceive is that people here have a tendency towards over-parenting than under-parenting. Free time for kids has been practically done away with, after long schooldays followed by heavily structured after-school activities. I would place unstructured, open-ended playtime as high as possible on the priority list,” states Carmen. After all, what can be more liberating than children learning to entertain themselves and designing their own activities? “The quality of a child’s early years involves heuristic play, and through it, learning conflict resolution, social skills, concentration and fulfilling tasks.”

That’s not to say children don’t need structure, predictability and routine. In fact, children thrive on it. “But ensure that you give your children special, ‘free time’ everyday, where you are just with them, but not in a teaching or disciplinarian way, but in a genuine encounter of playfulness.”

Among older children in the UAE, there are a lot of issues around homework and behaviour. “My theory is that there is too much pressure on being older than they are. It’s unrealistic for a child to be a in a highly structured academic environment every day, and then come home to more structured activities. Parents tell me about how their kids are more angry these days, but the truth is, just look at your child’s day. Haven’t they got the right to be just children?”

When it comes to inculcating discipline and values in children, it again boils down to parenting styles. But mainly, one has to be consistent. “Be clear, firm and consistent in your approach. Children here face different parenting styles and authority figures in the father, mother and often a nanny, so it’s important to set a consistent pattern for them.”
“In general, expatriates have come here to make more money, or for the lifestyle it affords them,” says Carmen, and this rubs off on the little ones too. “In general, yes, children would grow up here with less caution about their means and finances… For example, your child gets invited to birthday parties which are held in hired venues, with live entertainment and expensive giveaways. When it’s his own birthday, you might say ‘call your three best friends and let’s have them over for 
dinner’. They might not take it very well, but it’s important to teach them that they can’t have everything they want; you wouldn’t be setting them up for a realistic future then. If you overindulge them materialistically, you’re not setting the right foundation for their lives as adults,” points out Carmen.

Thus, permissive parenting is not 
any better than authoritarian. In the long run, make it a little uncomfortable for your children: don’t make everything easy for them, she says. “Typically, in the UAE, we see examples where people had authoritarian parents, and are now permissive parents themselves. This, coupled with guilt trips about not spending enough time with their children (mostly when both parents work), and an indulgent co-parent (like the nanny), means a lot of leeway for the child.”

Being there for the kids

Samia Kazi is COO, early childhood research, products and services, of Arabian Child, an organisation that researches and aids in the improvement of early childhood in the UAE by offering knowledge, training and resources to parents. According to her, the less controlling you are as a parent, the happier you and your child are likely to be.
“Parents struggle to manage the hectic lifestyle in the UAE, and to foster an emotional closeness with their children. Sadly, many of us go through the motion of coordinating play dates, managing afterschool activities, checking handwriting in homework submissions, and we forget to just be with our children. I know we all feel guilty about not spending enough time with our kids, but 
parents will be so much happier if they remember to always be present in the moment,” says Samia.

“Many parents here worry about 
raising their children in a multicultural environment. Children go to school, spend time in the community, and may come back with values and ideals different than their parents. However, learning effective parenting strategies can help parents maintain their culture and heritage.” For example, maintain a closeness to your children, despite difficulties or disagreements; do not be rigid or controlling; accept that everyone isn’t perfect, allow your children to be different; praise your children, listen instead of arguing; commit to your family celebrations and rituals. Finally, maintain solid morals and ethical values.

“Maintaining a strong connection to your culture is actually a protective factor in the prevention of mental health issues and crime. Children who understand and are proud of why the family does what they do are less susceptible to these problems,” states Samia.
Be savvy about your children’s schooling, advises Samia. “Challenges in providing high quality early education to young children in the UAE are similar to other countries. We are seeing major changes in policies and government regulations for early education; parents need to be aware of these changes in order to make the right choices.
“When we take our children to a 
nursery, we tour the premises, talk to 
the director and are reassured that the teachers are qualified. Yet, few parents understand what ‘quality’ or ‘qualified’ means. The choices that we make for our infants/toddlers/ preschoolers will largely affect the rest of their lives. Don’t be fooled by fancy toys or glossy brochures; do your research, investigate, and spend time in the classrooms before enrolling your children,” she points out.

Quality Time and Unconditional Love

Parents here have everything to be happy about, says Sukaiyna Gokal, founder of Garden of Ayden, which off-ers certified etiquette and character building classes for children and young adults in Dubai.

“The UAE is a fantastic, multicultural and safe haven to bring up children… we are blessed to live in a beautiful country that accommodates and welcomes us all. We are provided with all possible alternatives in early years/nursery education and schooling from various countries. Beyond the material trappings, there are beautiful beaches and parks for children to enjoy authentic play nine months a year. We are also safe here, thanks to the law and order,” says Sukaiyna.

“One obvious danger is that our lives are facilitated by helping hands. We easily hand over our parenting duties and get busy with work, social lives, and lose touch with our responsibility of spending quality time with our offspring. What is questionable is our outlook on this topic. Shouldn’t it be that we consider ourselves lucky that we can have quality time with our children here while someone else takes care of the household chores?”

Sukaiyna believes there are no generalisations possible on parenting styles in the UAE. The only way to nurture our children is to give them the necessary attention, discipline and unconditional love that they seek, which will make them wholesome individuals.

For any assistance with school search, HelpXpat is here to assist.
Contact us on 052 8102948 or

Points to remember while renting a house in Dubai

Finding a property to rent is fairly straightforward and assuming the budget matches the market, then finding a place should take no time at all. But we suggest that tenants look around two to three weeks before their move in date. With rental scams in the headlines more than once, we advise only dealing with a trusted real estate agency. Check to confirm it has a trade license and their agents have a broker’s license. It would be better to use an agent you have heard of and one that has helped others you know. 

Check the condition of the property
The landlord by law is obliged to hand over a in working order property, so check its physical state. Remember electricity and water only gets connected when the lease is already signed, so any power, air conditioning or plumbing issues won’t show up immediately. Make sure a clause is included in the contract, which states you have a couple of days after moving in to report these issues and the landlord is obliged to sort them out. Check that the final bill for the electricity, water and air conditioning provider has been paid by the outgoing tenant or landlord, preferably before signing the tenancy agreement,Also make sure that no service fees are outstanding, as once cheques are handed over it can be very difficult to get owners to pay up. The law is silent as to whose responsibility it is to pay for the service fees. However, it requires the landlord to provide the property in a condition the tenant can enjoy. If the landlord does not pay the service fees and the tenant’s use of the property is interfered with, this would constitute breach of tenancy laws by landlord. In such event, the tenant could seek recourse against the landlord through the Rent Committee. 

Legal ownership
Don’t rent on trust. Make sure there is a title deed or Oqood on the property. Ask to see the original title deed or check in the land department’s registry (Oqood) and get a passport copy of the landlord. Check the name on the title deed or ownership document is the same as on the tenancy agreement, if not make checks for any power of attorney documentation. And remember, subletting is illegal.

The contract
The first rule is to read the contract thoroughly for all clauses on maintenance and charges. They are not uniform, but standard contracts usually have clauses added by agents - these are the ones that must be read carefully.

These should include provisions to deal with the early, unscheduled breaking of the lease, There is usually a fine of two months rent if you break the contract before a year. Make sure there are provisions on the tenancy contract that stipulates the responsibility of maintaining the property. Minor maintenance is normally paid by the tenant and major maintenance by the landlord. Ask the agent to include a checklist on the condition of the property.It is advisable to have a proper check-in procedure, as this will ensure the tenant has a smooth exit at the end of the tenancy and help to ring fence the deposit

Signing the lease
We recommend signing the lease in presence of the landlord and ensuring that any other signatory has the necessary, valid authorisations. Cheques should be issued in the name of the landlord only. If cheques are issued to a real estate management company, then they should have a notarized power of attorney authorizing them to receive cheques on behalf of the landlord.All rental agreements have to be registered on the Real Estate Regulatory Agency’s (RERA) on-line Ejari system. In case of any disputes the rent committee will ask for the Ejari certificate. Ensure that the landlord knows that it is a legal requirement to register the tenancy at Ejari and should also be responsible for the registration cost. 

Hidden costs
There are many fees and charges, make sure you only pay what you need to:

Agency fees
According to the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) ethical guidelines, a property broker should only charge commission to the party they are representing, However, there are loopholes. Depending whether the property is managed or not, the landlord will also be charged for this service but normally the commission is payable by the tenant only. The typical agency commission is five per cent of the yearly rent, but there is no law that specifies a minimum or maximum amount of allowed fees.

If you renew your lease through an agency or management company they may charge an administration fee, although not all of them do so. Your lease should stipulate the charge.Some charge approximately one per cent of the annual rent, or a flat rate of between Dh500 and Dh1000. In any case, the renewal fee should be agreed by all parties beforehand, during signing of the lease.

Ejari fees
If the property is managed then the agent can register it at Ejari on behalf of the landlord. The responsibility for Ejari registration lies with the landlord, but the tenant can now also register the tenancy themselves. The cost is AED 195 in person or AED 160 online. The Ejari fee also has to be paid on renewal, usually by the tenant and it should not be more than Dh200.

The deposit is usually paid with a post-dated cheque. The contract should have a clause saying in what time frame after vacating the property it should be returned to you. The deposit is usually five percent of the annual rent and should be held by the landlord. In some cases landlords may demand a deposit equivalent to one month’s rent. For furnished units the deposit is higher and would depend on the type of furniture and appliances.There are often arguments over whether the property was handed back in the same condition. This is why a checklist and, even better, photographs of the property are necessary. Also try and include a definition of normal wear and tear and responsibilities for maintenance. The tenant must ensure that the property is returned to the landlord in the same condition that it was rented. The landlord reserves the right to make deductions from the deposit in case of any damages to the property caused by the tenant

Water, electricity and district cooling
The Dubai Electricty and Water Authority requires a refundable deposit of Dh1,000 for an apartment and Dh2,000 for a villa. Check that the unit is registered in the current landlord’s name before you get the utilities connected.

You could ask the agent to connect the utilities for you. Some agents may do it for free, but tenants should expect to pay a nominal fee if they wish the agency to connect the utilitiesDistrict cooling deposits and connection fees vary according to the provider, but you can check their web-sites for up-to-date charges.

Unexpected charges
Some landlords charge if your rent cheque bounces. Most tenancy agreements will stipulate some penalty charges if the tenants rental cheques gets returned by the bank for any reason. This could range anywhere from Dh250 to Dh1000. Tenants must refer to their tenancy agreement to know if they would be charged and what the charges would be. Be aware it may not only apply when you have insufficient funds but also if your cheque is returned because your signature was what banks call ‘irregular’. Some contracts even state that if it happens more than once the landlord can evict you.

There shouldn’t be anything else to contend with, but we recommend that tenants always read the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement as there may be other fees and charges for which the tenant may be liable to.

In case you require any support with the home search in UAE, HelpXpat is here to assist . 
We can be reached on 052 8102948 / 052 8102947 or

Sunday, 9 June 2013


Book a detox at the Park Hyatt Dubai, which has three- or five-day packages with accommodation, a daily healthy breakfast, daily body treatments at Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre and Amara Spa and a food menu from the Viva Mayr Clinic in Austria. Call 04-6021234.


Rugby match, Force vs Lions, screened at 2pm at McGettigan’s, JLT and DWTC.


At the movies:
Will and Jaden Smith explore our post-apocalyptic planet in After Earth; Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher mix magic and money in Now You See Me; Terrific father-son trio Dharmendra, Sunny and Bobby Deol re-unite for the sequel of 2011 hit comedy in Yamla Pagla Deewana 2.
100 years of  Bollywood, a concert at Crowne Plaza Dubai, from 9pm; tickets Dh100-350. Performers include Sa Re Ga Ma Pa winner Hrishikesh Ranade, Jitendra Abhyankar and Priyanka Barve.
MORE Café starts its summer 2013 photography competition, with the theme ‘Your UAE Story in Four Images’. Open to all UAE residents aged 13+ in two age categories. The teen winner (13–17) will receive a Leica V-Lux40 camera and the adult (18+) category winner will receive a Nikon D7000 Kit with 18-105mm lens. Upload their photos before September 13 with a 150-word story about the images. Best entries will be exhibited in October for public judging, with winners announced in November.


Dubai Summer Surprises starts.
Dubai Rock Fest, with performances from Yngwie Malmsteen, Epica, Dark Tranquillity and the UAE’s Anuryzm, at Dubai World Trade Centre; tickets Dh250-450 at
Auction of Bollywood costumes and clothing owned by stars, to raise funds for Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs, at Atlantis The Palm. Tickets Dhxx, at


Last night of Elvis Forever, a tribute to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, playing hits spanning the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, at Madinat Theatre. Shows June 6–8; tickets Dh195 at Madinat Theatre box office.


Have a snorkel in Atlantis’ aquarium, now open for swimmers to join the 65,000 marine animals in The Ambassador Lagoon. Dh225 per person, with a free snorkel and mask. Expect to see Golden Trevallys, Cobias, Crescent Angelfish, sharks and rays. Call 04-4261000.


It’s the final episode of Game of Thrones season 3. The hourlong finale is at 11pm on OSN First HD.
Indulge, a food and fashion event at La Postreria, Souk Al Bahar, 11am-8pm. Clothes include cotton tunics, playsuits, embroidered dresses, shorts, alongside summer cooking demos all day. Personalized three-course lunch menu Dh99 a head.


Last chance to catch Time of Transformation, an exhibition of hand painted silver gelatin photographs by Youssef Nabil, at The Third Line Gallery, closing on June 12. 


Cirque Le Soir’s Déjà vu Billionaire Affair: Want to meet “real desi billionaires”? Head to this new party at the Fairmont Dubai nightspot. Table bookings on 050-9764027; couples can enter for free.


At the movies: Happy birthday, Superman! The Man Of Steel is back, in time for his 75th birthday, and he looks as good as ever (well, Henry Cavill does, anyway). Clin Firth plays a character who appears ordinary to the point of boring in indie drama Arthur Newman; Vince Vaught and Owen Wilson will hopefully bring their Wedding Crashers comedy to The Intership; relative newcomers Pulkit Samrat and Manjot Singh star in the awkwardly-titled comedy Fukrey.
Björn Again perform at Ritz-Carlton, DIFC, Dubai; tickets Dh295 at
Tere Ghar Ke Samne, a play in Hindi starring Kashmira Shah, Rajesh Puri, and standup comedian Krushna, at Shaikh Rashid Auditorium, Indian High School, Dubai. Tickets Dh75-350; call 04-3373724/050-6549100/050-8465959.


Taal, a concert with “Jai Ho” singer Sukhwinder Singh, and playback star Alka Yagnik at Shaikh Rashid Hall, Dubai World Trade Centre. Tickets Dh100-1,000; call 050-2254010 or 04–43337606/07.
Dubai Flea Market moves inside at Dubai World Trade Centre for the summer (from July-Sept, every first Friday of the month). At Zabeel Hall 3, 2-7pm, entry Dh5. Sellers fee Dh300, register at


Dance workshop, featuring Indian classical and Bollywood, at Mayavi Dance Studio, Karama, Dubai, 3-5pm. Register at info@woman2woman.bizto enroll.
Dad O-limpics Day at Caboodle (also June 16) with father/daughter and father/son games, including barefoot Lego gauntlet, build the tallest tower challenge, arts and crafts and a daddy parenting skills quiz. Dh85, includes two-hour playtime for one child and a cup of tea for Dad.


It’s father’s day. Here are some ways to treat dad: Brunch at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, from Dh275;


Visit A Verse Imprinted: Islamic Art, a calligraphy exhibition until August 31 at The Ara Gallery, Downtown Dubai, in collaboration with the Dubai Arabic Calligraphy Centre.


Made a film? Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival has extended the date of film submissions to June 20. There are two categories for submissions: Films made by children and young adults, and films made for children, for the festival in October.


How to Catch a Star, a live show based on the Oliver Jeffers picture book, aimed at Children from 3-7 years old at Madinat Jumeirah Theatre. Morning and afternoon performances June 19-22; tickets Dh135; call 04-3666546.


At the movies: Can Brad Pitt save the world; more importantly, can he save World War Z, predicted to be summer’s biggest flop? Find out today. Also releasing: See how Manny and Lou started out in Monsters University; Kolaveri Di singer Dhanush makes his Bollywood entry with Sonam Kapoor in romance Raanjhanaa; After their Cannes showcase, Ameesha Patel and Neil Nitin Mukesh release Shortcut Romeo.
Punchline Comedy Club with Owen O’Neill, Tim Clark and Eddie Brimson at Emirates Golf Club, Dubai. (Also at The Clubhouse, Abu Dhabi, June 21; Hilton Al Ain, June 26; Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, June 27; Sharjah Rugby Club, June 28.) All shows start at 9pm; tickets Dh200 (Emirates Golf Course and Abu Dhabi Clubhouse); Dh150 (Creekside and Sharjah Rugby Club and Hilton Al Ain, at


Dubai Sports World, an indoor summer sports event opens at Dubai World Trade Centre, bigger than ever, until August 21. It’s open seven days a week, 8am-midnight (3am in Ramadan). To book a space, call 04-3064000 or
Violinist Dani Vi plays at Cavalli Club, Dubai.
Be Super Natural Workshop by Haley Mac of raw vegan food company Be Super Natural, 10.30am-12.30pm at Bo House Café, Dh90, includes two-hour super food talk and refreshments; email


The Wayans brothers, Shawn and Marlon, play their second night of stand-up comedy at Dubai World Trade Centre (also June 21), tickets Dh290; call 04-3237445.


Modhesh World is open! The fun starts at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre from June 20.


It’s lobster night at Sofra bld, Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi. All-you-can-eat lobster, crustaceans and types of fish, 7-11pm. Dhs199++ per person including soft drinks. Call 02-5098888.


See No.10, Rana Begum’s third solo show in Dubai, exhibiting metal sculptures coated with vibrant colours, at the Third Line, from June 19-July 30.


Wednesday is Thrive Industry Night at Sublime, Ibis World Trade Centre Dubai, with live music by Chronicles of Khan, tunes from DJs Rob Turner and Krunkmaster DJ Silk.


At the movies: The Dirty Picture pair Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi re-unite for a comedy about two ex-cons who are married to each other in Ghanchakkar; Channing Tatum must save US president Jamie Foxx in White House Down.
SummerFest Abu Dhabi starts, running until August 17 at Adnec and du Forum on Yas Island, with edutainment, shows, Arabic concerts, comedy nights, theatre and sport. Fun includes a live-action Cartoon Network Village, Lego zone, and the Lazy Town live show until July 3. Dh40 for adults and Dh20 for under-12s.; kids under two enter free.
Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi ladies night extended timings, from 5-10pm every Thursday evening, Dh210 (those over 1.1m) and Dh170. Men are not be admitted to the park; boys eight years old and under will be allowed access with female relatives on production of a photo ID or birth certificate as proof of age.


Mid-summer Christmas at Yalumba, with festive dishes including roast turkey, Christmas pudding, Yule log, gingerbread house, Dh499 per person at Le Meridien Dubai; call 04-7022455.


Head to Maya – Modern Mexican Kitchen + Lounge, at the Le Royal Meridien Dubai, for its Mas Mas Maya brunch (also Fridays) serving up family-style. Mexican food from 1-4pm with access to the hotel’s beach and pools 9am-6pm and 20 per cent off on selected beverages between 5-7pm in the rooftop lounge. Dh350 (Dh450 with selected beverages; kids menu for 12 and above, Dh150).


Last day to see Pioneers of Indian Modernism, an exhibition of works by Indian artists such as MF Husain, VS Gaitonde, SH Raza, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, and Akbar Padamsee, at Sovereign Gallery; call 04-4322846.

For any enquiries or support please contact HelpXpat on 052 8102948 /
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