As we explained in a previous post, Spain is a fabulous place to bring up your children. Family comes first and children are children for longer. However, don’t fool yourself, it can take time to adjust to new ways of doing things, especially when they are so different to what we thought were the right way to do things. There are so many tell tale signs that your kids grew up in Spain. I’m sure you can add many more to this initial list that we are sharing.
“But she’s so beautiful”, says the mother of another girl at the rhythmic gymnastic practice.
This is what almost every parent we meet says about our daughter.
But that’s what she needs to hear. Nor is it what I want people to say to her.
She is growing up and the words she hears are very important.
It is almost four years since Francesca stopped going to rhythmic gymnastic practice.
The memory of the last event is etched deep in my mind.
I sat there, on the cold concrete floor, hundreds of non-seeing eyes across the hall from us. I was rocking her in my arms, trying to console her, to comfort her, to give her confidence. At least she was in my arms at last. No longer screaming and shrieking, as much at herself as at me. Scolding herself for her self-imagined inadequacies. Desperately trying to hide her inner fear. Control her inner demons.
A few minutes earlier (actually, thinking back, the incident had lasted close to 45 minutes) I had been torn apart with emotions as I stood there and watched her screaming aggressively at her fellow gymnasts who attempted to comfort her, encourage her, to calm her. These were the girls she so loved to practice with. They encouraged and supported here all the way. They knew she knew her routine. She had practiced religiously. She was to be the mini-star of the show.
But, when she was like that, only one person could console her. These were demons she had created. And only she could tame them.
I simply had to be there, ready to step in as soon as the opportunity arose.
Our hard-working, determined little girl was not ready. She was too young. We decided to walk away.
Our family back in 2010
As a toddler, it was heartbreaking to see her scold and even hit herself when she thought she had upset somebody. A slightly raised voice or a change of tone would cause her to erupt. It was soul destroying.
How could this angelic looking child appear to hate herself so much? Why wouldn’t she let us comfort her? For us, a hug could solve everything. It had worked for our son. What a lesson we had ahead …
Today, in my eyes, she has grown so much and in so many ways.
Yet, as she stood there, amongst the other girls, before her first practice session in years, she had never looked so petite and fragile. But she was beaming from ear to ear. She wanted to do this. And when she wants to do something …
In no way do I mean to be rude when I say this, but, next time, when you see a young girl making a big effort to do something, congratulate her on what she is doing, not on how she looks. And watch how she smiles back at you.
As I sit here, deliberating what to share with you first, I am torn. Living abroad with children is a whirlwind of life experiences. Sometimes you just need to stop, take a breath and slow down. Otherwise, life simply passes you by.
It has been far too long since our last blog post but we do have an excuse. In fact, we have several fabulous excuses. We have eleven weeks worth of excuses.
I have made a promise to myself that I am going to take the time to relive our amazing summer and share our memories with you, in the form of blog posts and lots of beautiful pictures.
So much has happened and is happening. This coming year is marked by change. Lots of changes. More changes than we’ve had for many years.
The fountains in the new Plaza in Mijas Pueblo
Tomorrow is the first day of back to school for our daughter, Francesca. We were not expecting any changes for Francesca. Our daughter thrives on routine and stability. Unexpected changes can be painful.
It is important to remember that changes are inevitable when living abroad with children. Learning to adapt to change is an essential skill for living abroad.
Let me take time out for a second, my mind is racing ahead of me already …
Here is a taste of the stories we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks:
Our son’s education story: The end of an era and new beginnings in bilingual education
Making Memories: Summer holidays in Cadiz, Paris, The Dordogne, Archidona, Paxos and London
The Challenges of Living Abroad: I found a Lump and how it affected my relationships.
Integration and Family Time: Padel Tennis
Spanish Bureaucracy: Why we have chosen to live in a building site rather than sell our house in Spain and buy another one
The Language Show Live 2016 : Presenting Cooking With Languages.
But before all that, here we are today:
As I mentioned, tomorrow is the first day of a new school year for infant and primary, state school in Spain. Francesca is heading back to school in the morning.
It was “school as usual”, up until two days ago that is when we were advised of an unexpected change.
For the first time in six years, she is starting the school year in a new class. She is still at the same school in the village but, due to changes made by the Junta, she is now no longer with the same classmates she’s been with for the past six years.The previous three classes have been merged into two. There will be twenty-eight children in each class. Francesca, along with three others from her class have been moved. How they decided this, I have no idea. However, we are grateful that she is still going to be with one of her best friends. Her other best friend, however, has not been moved. We are hoping this will change.
When you’re moving and living abroad with children, stability is an important part of their lives and we have previously been concerned that Francesca’s lack of confidence was due to the fact she’d been moved so many times, from such an early age. The news about her being moved to another class initially shocked and upset me. I was afraid how it would affect her.
Thankfully, so far, this is proving not to be the case. Despite my fears, she does not appear to be scared and is very happy to be returning to school tomorrow, even though there’s going to be a big change in her learning environment. An environment which has been stable for her, for the past six years.
Her strength and ability to adapt just prove how strong children really are. I do believe that provided we pay attention to them and are aware of their feelings and their behaviours and we take the right steps we can help them, they can adapt to almost any environment.
One of the *main reasons we decided that our children should go to the local state school rather than the private international school, was stability. The expat community is generally a very transient community. Friends, with children in international schools, have often told us how their children struggled to maintain good friendships as many expat children, for differing reasons, come and go over the years. Enrolling our children in the local village school has resulted in them, particularly Francesca, developing beautiful bonds and friendships with Spanish children. Children who have grown up in the village and who are here to stay, although we know that nothing is guaranteed.
(*In case you were wondering, the main reason was the desire to learn the language and become bilingual.)
Francesca warming up and stretching before ballet class.
The stability and the lack of change in her class have helped Francesca gain in self-confidence over the years. It has been a slow process but we are getting there. Her school is a place where she is growing in confidence. She knows all her classmates, they go to parties and ferias together. She knows who she sits with during class time. She knows what to expect. She loves the school routine. Or she did …
This is a massive change for her, in the most constant environment. It will be interesting to see how she copes with it and what effect it has on her however in the coming months.
We are hoping that the new found confidence, thanks to her ballet classes, continues to grow and she can enjoy what lies ahead in this new school year. One day our little lady will enjoy the confidence she so deserves.
Thursday marks an even bigger change. Our son Joshua will start a new chapter in his education. A new chapter in a new school. An exciting new chapter in bilingual education.
As a regular reader of our blog, you will know that we are always sharing our stories and reasons why Spain is great for kids to live and to grow up. If you read any of the interviews we have given (links on our About Us page) you will see many of the reasons why.
In this article, we will share, not only our reasons, but also many other people’s opinions on this matter.
We are not comparing Spain in contrast to any other country. We are merely sharing opinions on Spain.
Here are our main reasons why Spain is great for kids to live and to grow up:
Safety: Spain has a relatively low crime rate. Parents do not live in fear for the safety of their children. It is wonderful to have strangers in the street come up to your children, to talk to them, embrace them, even to take your baby out of your arms. (I can imagine some parents cringing at this very thought).
Healthcare: Both our children were born in Spanish state hospitals. We have always contributed to the Spanish healthcare system and we have no complaints whatsoever. Spain has excellent healthcare for children. Waiting times are non-existent
Language-Learning: Expat children living in Spain grow up learning at least two languages. Their mother tongue, Spanish and other local languages, depending on where you live. There are believed to be many advantages to learning more languages and we believe it to me an amazing gift to give to a child of any age.
Outdoor Lifestyle: Thanks to the weather, in most parts of Spain and particularly in the South, more time is spent outdoors than indoors. Sports facilities are in abundance in all villages and towns. Playing on the beach, or in the open countryside, in clean fresh air, is a normal occurrence rather than a rare holiday treat.
Family First: The family unit in Spain is generally very tight. Children grow up with great respect for family members and appreciating the family unit. They develop a special pride in their family. Respect for elders is inherent.Woe betide the niño who does not instantly give up his seat for an Abuelita Click To Tweet Even though, children may not see some relatives as often as if they lived in the same country, when they do meet up they enjoy quality time together.
Great Food: Living in a different place is a great opportunity to encourage children to try new foods. You can see some of our children’s favourite Spanish dishes in this post (click here). “Children’s meals” are not typical in most Spanish restaurants. It is more typical for families in Spain to share plates of food. Meal times are often family times. Fast food is yet to impact Spanish eating habits. How often have you seen people walking down the street eating their lunch in Spain?
Holidays: Spain is famous for its ferias and festivos. There is often any excuse for a holiday in Spain. Although it may be more challenging for some parents, based on their work schedule, for those of us who work for ourselves and have flexible working conditions, regular holidays are part of the routine. What child doesn’t enjoy a holiday? Whether it’s a week at home with more trips to the beach or fun family days out, the children enjoy more family time.
Children are Welcome Everywhere: Ok. There may be some exceptions. But, in general, you will not need to worry if your children will be welcomed in most establishments in Spain. No matter what the time or location, your children will be not only welcomed but welcomed with open, loving arms.
And you don’t need to just take our word for it. Here is what a few of our Twitter and Facebook friends’ replies when we asked them if and why they thought Spain is a great place for kids:
Karen Carter Southall (@weddingsaboutsp) The climate offers a more outdoor lifestyle, where the countryside or the beach is often their playground and imagination, is the key. Family values count and diet is generally healthier.
Pete Carter: Clean air, fresh living, mixing with nature, outdoor activities that aren’t rained off, fresh produce (inland anyway).
Diana Berryman (@soc1albutterfly) Kids get a chance to still be kids here. There is less pressure to grow up too fast, family values are still strong and kids are still respectful of their parents and grandparents.
Lynsey Drake (@lynzinthesun) Swallows & amazons lifestyle. always interacting with adults as kids go everywhere with you. They become aware of being a minority. Not as materialistic. Bilingual. I’m now in a different area now though with 2 late teens and am not sure if Spain offers all the opportunities. But I wouldn’t have had their 1-16 years anywhere else
Abi Dean: Kids are welcomed, cherished and doted on in all aspects of life – their teachers greet them with a hug and a kiss in the morning, you’ll never have to worry about anyone tut-tutting at you in a restaurant, and in the summer you can sit and enjoy a relaxing glass of wine at a beach cafe whilst watching your kids playing because every generation will be out enjoying the evening together
Mike Cliffe-Jones (@mikecj) Warm, safe, family focus, sporty, outdoor, lack of cynicism.
Sarah Hawes: Its safe, food is healthier. People are outside in the fresh air more. The need to constantly be in fashion is not a priority …. and … they respect their elders. So lots to aspire to.
Maya Middlemiss (@casslar) Children are at the heart of Spanish culture, and welcome everywhere – not marginalised or excluded as they can be in the UK.
Richard Middlemiss: For the kids, a safer less paranoid society where it’s ok to enjoy kids, even to pat them on the head or hug ’em even if they’re not your own….not that I’d do that to the ‘orrible little tics of course! They have a longer childhood but in a lot of ways a less inhibited childhood certainly than I had. They are multilingual and see sunshine almost every day. Ok it’s not Newcastle but it’s not bad!
Rebecca Eisen: Kids are always welcome in restaurants, cafes, bars no matter how much noise there making, traditional flamenco dancing lessons for girls and boys and fantastic places to explore
Marina Nitzak (@luksmarbella) Safe, happy, family and outdoor based environment and activities, local authorities that constantly improve public facilities, multicultural open-minded atmosphere where from early age kids learn languages, international traditions and share their heritage at the same time. Very entrepreneurial and positive in encouraging youngsters to take initiative in their own projects too. But most of all I think I have to come back to safety and security, absolutely priceless for parents I think.
Carol Byrne (@carolmarybyrne) From the mouths of babes, or mine anyway. Isobel says: the freedom, learning a new language is great, I like the culture but not making Morcilla and you learn a lot of manners and lots from chatting with the old people in the village. I like smaller numbers at school here too
Fiona Flores Watson (@seville_writer) Cheap, good food, no “kids’ meals” nonsense, lots of sunshine, can play outdoors, embraced by society.
Heidi Wagoner (@wagonersabroad) A simple, family friendly lifestyle. Back to the roots of family time, outdoor time getting out on the paseo for social time and a great sense of community. Kids are allowed to be kids and are accepted everywhere.
John Wolfendale (@johnwolfendale) You are heroes just for having children eg people make space for you in the supermarket queue, you get tolerance even support in restaurants, the idea that children shouldn’t go in a restaurant seems madness (or even in the UK weddings!!! weddings without children…how crazy is that when its the whole point of getting married!?!): health service, doctors will see children on the same day nothings too much trouble: respect for the family and for elders, no yob culture (although they are learning this from the northern europeans): food mediterranean diet so much healthier eg every meals starts with a salad and no butter, strangers will smile at talk to play with your children no like in the UK where if you smile at a child the police will come and arrest you, entertainment, the mountains, the beaches, the rivers all a few minutes away not a major traffic jam away. Climate for being outside most of the time, family events happening all the time: being cuddled I confess I teared up when the teacher gave my boys a hug when they came back from the summer holidays. I was lucky to get the cane.
What do you think? Tweet us your thoughts to @FamilyInSpain and feel free to share this post and ask your friends for their opinions too.
Whether you are looking to invest money in a property or a simply looking for a rental property, choosing the correct location is fundamental to, not only the success of your move, but also your future happiness in your new home. This is also why I encourage you to rent before buying when first starting a new life in Spain. Yes, I agree that rent can be dead money. However, until you are certain you have the correct location for you, the dead rental paid will probably be a lot less that the expense incurred by the purchase of the wrong property.
If, however, you have visited a place many times, at different times of the year then buying a property may be a suitable option. Just don’t rush into it.
In my opinion, too many people move to Spain without learning to speak Spanish. I’m not saying you need to be fluent, but I am suggesting that it should be a personal goal to at least make a really big effort. Being able to at least start a conversation with a Spaniard, in their own language, will truly enhance your chances of integration and open so many more exciting doors for you.
Invest in some dual language Cd’s to watch with your children. Play online language-learning games. Use flashcards … There are so many great methods for language-learning these days.
Watch out for our free Spanish language-learning articles, coming very soon.
One of the first decisions about education is usually whether to enrol your children in a Spanish state school or a private international school. The availability of state schools and international schools in Spain varies by region. It is really important to carefully research the schools in the area you plan to make your new home before you plan your move to Spain.
In some areas of Spain, it can be difficult to secure places in a school, before having an address in Spain. Speak to the schools you are considering before making any definite decisions about your property.
Spain is very different to many other European countries. Too many people move over here with the “But, back home they …” attitude. Do yourself a huge favour and leave that attitude (if you ever had it) behind.Be prepared to slow down. Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it will get done tomorrow or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster.
Be prepared to slow down. Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it will get done tomorrow or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster. You have a lot to learn. Prepare yourselves for the onslaught of the Spanish donkey-style bureaucratic system
Note: Burro is Spanish for donkey. Burrocracia is Spanish for bureaucracy 😉
Get a Copy of OUR BOOK and let us do a lot of the work for you!
The above tips are a quick summary of only a few of the many issues we cover in our guide Moving to Spain with Children.
To read some of the lovely reviews people have sent in, and to have a look inside at what essential topics are covered, pop over to Amazon (click here) and have a look.
Last year, it was more challenging and despite booking a long holiday in Cadiz, my work spoilt what could have been a wonderful holiday. That, of course, has now all changed and I am free to enjoy this time with our children, and enjoy it we have.
In this post, we will share with you how we planned and spent this year’s school summer holidays in Spain. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas how to enjoy rather than endure this time with your children. It’s all about planning…
Silly string fighting with family & friends in the UK
So, how have we enjoyed our 12 Weeks of school summer holidays in Spain?
Click each of the links below to read the related articles, including information, directions and insider tips we want to share with you.
(NOTE: If the links are not active yet, it means that I haven’t managed to post the article yet … I’m out of practice following our 12 week holidays remember 😉 )
A trip to the UK: Avoid the queues as UK children are back at school! Legoland Windsor & Science Museums in London.
See how quickly that went! Where did those three months; 12 weeks; eighty days go?
Beautiful beach days in Conil de la Frontera, Cadiz.
We have had such a wonderful summer and are already thinking about how to enjoy next summer. The only problem now is that I have to get back into work mode. There are only so many times you can tell people that you are “de vacaciones” … Maybe I’ll send them a copy of this post so they will understand. After all, it is one of the many reasons we chose to live and love our Family Life In Spain.
How do you spend your summer? Do you enjoy it or endure it? Send us your stories and ideas.
As you may know, we currently live in the beautiful Andalucian, whitewashed village of Mijas. It is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. We decided it was about time to share our Top 5 Holiday Activities for Kids in Mijas. Please keep number 5 quiet though, or we will be in trouble with the locals.
So, what are our Top 5 Holiday Activities for Kids in Mijas?
In no particular order ….
1. A visit to the Mayan Monkey Mijas Chocolate Factory
Do you love chocolate? Did you know you can make your own chocolate bar in Spain? Did you know that there is a chocolate factory in Mijas pueblo?
As self-confessed chocoholics, it was obvious that we would be visiting the new chocolate factory in our village, however we had not imagined actually making our own chocolate bars.
Parque Aquatico Mijas is a great day out for children of all ages. Keep your eye out for discount vouchers given out at supermarkets and in hotels in the area. The vouchers can save you around €20 on the entrance fee for a family of four.
The water park offers rides and slides to suit all ages.
The Isla Lagartos (Lizard Island) allows the younger children to swim and play in fountains, slides and water jets.
The Lago Azul (Blue Lake) and Jacuzzi is where you can lie back, relax and let the water refresh you.
Everybody can have fun in the Piscina de Olas (Wave Pool).
For the more adventurous, there is: the 15 metre high Kamikaze; the 300 metre long winding slides of the Laberinto de Toboganes; the 40 metres of water madness of Rio Aventura and the Pistas Blandas where you can set your own challenges as to how to launch yourself in to the water.
Watch out for our next post with lots of crazy photos of water based fun at Parque Aquatico Mijas.
3. The Miniatures Museum: Carromato de Mijas
The Miniature Museum Mijas, Carromato de Mijas, is the first of its kind. It is a must for visitors to Mijas pueblo, no matter what your age.
From the outside, the Miniature Museum Mijas does not look like anything special. It actually looks a bit like a carriage off an old train. However, once you discover its treasures you will be happy you decided to visit.
The collection of miniatures was founded in 1972 by a famous hypnotist Juan Elegido Millán, who went by the stage name of Professor Max. This miniatures museum has pieces from over 50 different countries, many of them utterly remarkable in their attention to detail and microscopic artistry.
Photographs are not normally permitted inside the Miniature Museum Mijas. However, when the local photography competition takes place, all visitors can take pictures. We were in luck when we visited …
My mum and my children were fascinated.
It is incredible to think that somebody has the patience to paint, using an eyelash, for months, to produce some of these amazing pictures.
There are some other interesting pieces such as: dressed up fleas; the seven wonders of the world painted on a toothpick; a shrunken head from the Jivaros Indians and some stunning Japanese artwork.
Dried and dressed fleas.
Please also be advised that this museum is managed by AFESOL and all monies paid as entrance fees go towards this very needy cause. The Mijas ayuntamiento do not charge any rental fee to AFESOL and contribute to running costs.
AFESOL (Association of Families and Persons with Mental Illness in the Costa del Sol), is a non-profit association formed by families and people with mental illness, together to find solutions to problems that arise with mental illness.
Address: Avenida del Compas, s/n .29650 Mijas Pueblo.
Opening times: every day from 10am.
4. Mijas Donkey-Taxis
Some people may not agree with the use of Donkey Taxis in Mijas Pueblo, however the children tend to love the experience. It is said that inMijas,inthe early60’s,someworkersreturningto their homeson theirdonkeys,wererequested, byvisitors,tophotographortake a walk.
As with most tourist attractions, thetips paid by the visitors exceededthe worker’s salaries. As a result, theDonkey–Taxis are todayan institutionin Mijasandone of its mainattractions.
Steps have been taken to ensure the well being of the donkeys. To boost the quality of their tourist taxi rides, the famous Mijas donkeys must now be registered with brand new ID plates. This will also aid recognition of individual animals and improve the service.
5. The Municipal Swimming Pool in Osunillas (summer months only).
This is a beautiful outdoor pool that is free during the week! Shhh … don’t tell too many people though please.
It is located in the area of Osunillas near Mijas Pueblo. It is generally open from the first week in June. For non residents the entry fee is €3 at the weekends. There is plenty of shade beneath the trees if you do not want too much sun and there is a snack bar to purchase drinks and snacks. A plate of paella is only 5 euros!
Location: Carretera de Mijas a Benalmádena, Km 1. 29650 – Mijas.
So, there you have them. Our Top 5 Holiday Activities for Kids in Mijas. What do you think? We’d love to hear your suggestions and to receive your feedback once you’ve done any of these things in Mijas.
Spending a year in Spain is becoming more and more popular for families with children, of all ages. Admittedly, this is still very much more so with US residents rather than European residents. However this appears to be changing with more European families contemplating the idea.
Deciding your own “WHY” is important at this point.
“Why are you spending a year in Spain?”
Ask yourself, “What do we, as a family, want to gain from our year in Spain?”
The most common reasons people tell me that they want to spend a year in Spain are:
To spend more time together as a family.
To learn or improve Spanish language skills
To experience another culture.
To enjoy a family experience that they will never forget.
I am yet to be told that the year in Spain is to improve the academic education of the children.
This may seem obvious as you read this article. However, when we are engulfed in researching and absorbing information, scheduling trips and making travel arrangements, the obvious becomes clouded or even hidden beneath all the other stuff.
Based on experience, I would like to encourage you to shift your focus when planning your year in Spain. Focus on fun. Focus on family time. By doing this you are not neglecting your child’s education … after all, by spending a year in Spain with your children, you are gifting them an education that many would be envious of.
“The first step to growing strong roots is to start planting seeds.”
It feels like an eternity since I last posted on this blog. So much has happened over the past few months: We have finally moved into our new home in Spain; we are in the process of re-launching our business in Spain.; we have become involved in launching a new networking group on the Costa del Sol.; and we are helping to organise the Children’s Fayre 2011 to raise money for the oncology ward at Malaga children’s hospital.
So much to tell and so little time to tell it …
Yet, sat here now, after the recent storms, looking up towards the Sierra de Mijas, breathing in the fresh, clean air and marvelling at the feeling of space and tranquillity that surrounds out new home, I feel as if we have all the time in the world.
The forecast is for further storms and unsettled climes. For the weather in Spain, maybe, but not for us... We are home. We are happy. We are looking forward. We are ready for this new chapter of our Family Life In Spain.
We have planted our seeds. Now it is time to get to work and help them to grow…
Better three hours too soon than a minute too late
No time to tarry, lest we forget, lives are at stake
An older head can’t be put on younger shoulders.
You’ve tripped on one of your tricks this time, Joker!
Can you remember which show they’re from, yet? This will give it away, for sure:
Come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There’s not a moment to lose!
Holy haberdashery, Batman!
Thanks to modern technology and the big world wide web, we can continue to enjoy childhood classics, such as Batman, wherever we are. We love sharing the cartoons we grew up with, with our children. Thanks to DCKids Youtube Channel and their website, our children are easily entertained at home, in the car and especially when travelling.
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