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Growing up as an expat child can in the UAE a long-term positive impact.

In 2022, when then 14-year-old South African teen Alana learned that her family would be relocating to Dubai, she was overcome with disbelief. The news shattered her plans of graduating and attending prom with her friends in her hometown. Her mother, Irene, a 45-year-old teacher, shared similar apprehensions about the move, questioning if it was the right decision for their family.

During the transition, Irene prioritized open communication with her children, despite facing resentment from Alana, who lashed out at her parents and grappled with feelings of anger and abandonment. Alana's biggest fear was making new friends in a foreign environment and being accepted into social circles at her new school.

Dr. Nikita Bhatnagar, a clinical psychologist at Connect Psychology Clinic in Dubai, treated Alana and highlighted the challenges faced by expatriate adolescents. According to Dr. Bhatnagar, adolescents undergo a significant adjustment period when uprooting their lives and identities, especially in a new cultural setting.

Parents play a crucial role in supporting their teens during this transition by empathetically addressing their fears and concerns. Dr. Bhatnagar emphasized the importance of creating a psychologically safe environment for adolescents to express themselves and navigate the complexities of expatriate life.

Despite initial struggles, Alana, now 16, reflects positively on her experience. With Dr. Bhatnagar's guidance and her family's support, she has become more resilient and secure in herself. Alana acknowledges the transformative power of living as an expatriate, embracing the opportunity to learn about different cultures, make new friends, and broaden her horizons in Dubai.

Living as an expatriate teenager has allowed Alana to develop qualities of openness, flexibility, and resilience that will benefit her in adulthood. Despite the challenges, she is grateful for the enriching experiences and opportunities that come with life as an expatriate in Dubai.

March 22, 2024 4:40 p.m. 5135

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