Travel, lifestyle, family.

8 things about kids in Qatar that shocked me as a parent.

19 June, 2020
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So today I have decided to jump off of the coronavirus-related posts bandwagon and touch another topic.

Before you begin reading, please consider taking the below information with a grain of salt. Obviously, not all kids in Qatar are the same, and not all parents are being triggered by the same things. Also, it goes without saying that the behavior of kids is a reflection of the way they are being taught at home – I don’t believe that some kids are simply “bad”. I wrote this based on my personal experience, and on what shocked me when I started my life in Qatar with children.

1. Kids in moving vehicles.

Oh, don’t even get me started on this one! Since I arrived in Doha back in 2012, I’ve literally seen it all! Kids bouncing on the driver’s lap. Kids’ heads poking out of the sunroof and/or windows. Mothers holding infants, using their mobiles, and driving a car at the same time. Kids crawling from the back of the car to the front and back again, while the car is moving… The list goes on. Car seats still seem to be a rarity, despite a good job that the government is doing with child safety campaigns (see HERE). Usual excuse? “My baby cries when I put her in the seat”. For real.

2. Kids on the playgrounds.

Playgrounds in Qatar are truly spectacular. Huge, modern and there are so many of them. But my oh my, it is a wild wild West out there! If you’re new in Doha and decide to take your child to a playground (once it’s allowed!), my advice is: go as early as possible. It seems that there’s a special type of kids that come out to play in the afternoons. Kids who play rough, enjoy bullying others, who litter like there’s no tomorrow, and cause mass destruction wherever they move. You may say it sounds familiar. Well it might, except that I am NOT talking about naughty teens here. I’m talking about kids aged maybe 4 to 7! They seem to have one thing in common: very disinterested parents, often nowhere to be seen, who don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with their kids’ behavior. Which is probably why those kids behave like this in the first place πŸ˜‰

3. The impossibly late bedtime.

Oh the looks I’m getting when I tell people that my 5-year-old goes to bed before 8pm! πŸ˜€ Thing is, many families here are living kind of a “nocturnal” lifestyle πŸ˜‰ Not sure whether it’s a cultural thing or it’s simply because it’s so friggin’ hot during the day that a lot of people only come outside late in the evenings. Whatever the reason, many kids in Qatar are hardcore late-night-dwellers and their happy screams often wake me up around midnight or even later! I could never do this for two simple reasons: firstly, during school days my kids need to wake up before 7AM. Secondly, both me & hubby desperately need some adult time in the evenings to maintain our sanity! πŸ˜‰

4. The amount of screen time.

How to entertain a bored child while on a family outing? Well, we usually carry along a backpack full of toys, ready to whip out a car or two whenever the kids start misbehaving. It seems though that not many parents here do the same. If you go to a restaurant and have a look around, you will see many young kids staring at mobile phones and tablets while their parents are happily chatting with friends. And as much as I understand that there are situations where playing a cartoon for your kid might be perfectly justified, the number of small children engaged with gadgets instead of parents and siblings is quite frankly terrifying. Even in places like parks, where it’s the most logical thing for the little ones to run around enjoying themselves, many are glued to the screens of their parents’ phones.

5. The diet.

Many families here (including all of my next-door neighbors) introduce sugar to kids as young as 8-10 months old. And not even as a treat, but as a regular part of their diet! Same goes for highly processed food coming from fast-food restaurants, and the “bad” kind of carbs in general. πŸ˜‰ I am definitely guilty of feeding my offspring chicken nuggets from time to time, or sharing my banana bread with them (if there’s still some left after I throw myself at it), but damn, they do not eat chocolate for breakfast and cookies for lunch πŸ˜‰ Also, fizzy drinks! Seeing a 4-year-old roaming around with a can of coke is nothing unusual here.

6. The attitude towards strangers.

This one is actually quite endearing, but in certain circumstances could be dangerous. In many cases here kids are being raised by a crowd of people, including their immediate relatives, but also neighbors, family friends, friends of family friends etc. πŸ˜‰ Because of that, most kids become extremely social and open towards strangers. I often experience random kids approaching me and my children in a mall and walking along with us, or joining us during picnics or games in parks. I personally don’t mind it one bit, it’s cute πŸ™‚ But I know it could potentially cause many problems!

7. “Books? Thanks, but I’ll pass.”

This one makes me particularly sad, as I am a keen reader and I’m trying to plant the love of books in my children, too. Many kids in Qatar don’t read and are not interested in books at all. They own boxes full of hi-tech toys, including all the newest and trendy ones, but next to no books. I am aware that in many households reading is not a part of a daily routine. Heck, my own husband is not into books AT ALL. The difference is though, despite that he still encourages our kids to read and doesn’t bat an eye when I come home with yet another bag of books. Which brings us to another problem: prices of books (both for kids and adults) in Qatar are CRAZY. Think: twice or thrice more expensive than in Europe. I’m usually trying to buy second-hand, but there aren’t many out there, especially for smaller children. I realize that this is also a major factor creating this issue!

8. The mess they leave behind.

Again, caused by a lack of proper guidance from the adults. I still remember how one of my friends told me once that when she confronted a local boy about littering in the street, he told her: “If I throw my garbage to the bin every single time, the street cleaners will be out of job.”. And the truth is, there are thousands of cleaners all over the country, which is a good thing, but also it made people lazy! A simple thing such as returning dirty dishes or throwing empty packaging in a food court is something out of ordinary. Children see all this, and they learn.

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