How Raising Your Child in Dubai Helps Develop Him/Her


Culture and Context

Working in an International school in a Dubai means that we are privileged to work with an elite group of students known as Third Culture Kids! Ruth Van Reken defines a “third culture kid (TCK) as a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs.”


This group of people is four times more likely to earn a bachelor degree than any other segment of the population. They are more flexible and adaptable than people growing up in a mono-culture.  Their level of maturity outstrips their mono-cultural peers and they frequently have a far broader worldview and are able to communicate across cultures effectively.  In short they have the potential to be global peacemakers and are ideally suited fulfill the IB mission statement perfectly.

There are also huge challenges that the children and families that we work with face.  Their lifestyle impacts their developmental patterns and encourages specific character traits.  It also impacts the way that children form relationships and react to those with whom they come into contact. They also frequently have are unfamiliar with their parent’s passport country(ies). The characteristics of TCKs become more pronounced, as they get older but influence the formation of the child’s character.  In a Dubai context, some of the biggest impacts of our context are the perception of poverty and wealth as well as delay in physical development of children in the Early Years.

To learn more about Third Culture Kids please take a moment to read:


For Social and Emotional Development

Social and emotional development includes what children experience, how they express themselves, and how they identify and manage their emotions.  It also includes the ability to create and sustain relationships with those around them as well as their perception and relationship with themselves. This interlinks very strongly with the environment as it includes the inter-relationships among the teachers, children and parents and the social norms, expectations and essential agreements.


Environments that are co-created by adults and children provide children with a sense of ownership, trust and the celebration of their initiative. For children in the early years, natural curiosity is a key part of their development.  They want to seek, explore and understand the world around them. If we don’t facilitate this, children feel guilty about natural urges to explore and lose their desire to do so.  One of the beauties of inquiry-based education is that it reinforces this.  Learning through play allows the children to try on different social roles, which allows them to practice different social situations and make them have meaningful social relationships with other children.

Children who feel that they have significant and safe relationships within their environment learn and excel academically too.   As this grows and develops they move through different stages of play, all of which are visible in our early years department  (solitary, parallel, associative, cooperative), but we will explore these in a different article.

For a more in-depth look at Social and emotional development check out:

This ends my three part series on Early Childhood development. If you would like to read more, please see my articles on Cognitive Development and Environment as a Teacher and the Puzzles Pieces of Early Childhood Development.

Contributed by: Karen Cooke

Assistant Head of Early Years

Greenfield Community School 


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