We asked you, The Local Spain readers, to share your experiences as foreigners bringing up children in Spain.
How do the schools rate? How is Spanish society’s attitudes towards children different from back home? What have you found hard?
Overwhelmingly, our readers had a positive experience of bringing up their children in Spain, once they had adapted to the Spanish lifestyle.
Several respondents mentioned how “child-friendly” and safe Spain is.
“The Spanish love children,” said David Viz, a dad who lives in Jerez de la Frontera. “They’re welcome everywhere and at any time of the day or night. If a ball bounces into even the busiest street, cars will stop because they know a child is likely to follow (I witnessed this in Madrid).”
Another father from Madrid agreed. “The big thing for me that kids are accepted everywhere,” said Garreth Nunn. “People really love kids and you are made to feel welcome in most places.”
The generally good climate means that much of the time can be spent outdoors, which as most parents know, makes for healthier and happier children.
“A lot of opportunities to bring kids outdoors, for playing or picnic or sports,” remarked Cass Stan who is bringing up her children in Barcelona.
“The country is really safe. You can see children playing by the park past midnight during summer!” agreed Christian Deschamps from Granada. “The weather is mostly great year-round especially near the Mediterranean.”
For those with Spanish partners, that also means an extended family in Spain, which has its perks, with several readers commenting on the importance placed on the extended family and socialising as a family.
“You can go out till the early hours with the kids and know they won’t be out of place and there’ll be little antisocial behaviour (as long as you’re in an area without Brits!)” said Carla Leftwich, who lived in Catalonia.
“Family members and neighbours usually take care of babysitting and amusing each other’s children. It’s a community thing,” remarked another.
Childcare and Schools
Readers broadly praised childcare facilities in Spain as being “more available and cheaper” than elsewhere, especially in Madrid where “the Communidad de Madrid have now followed the city hall’s example of offering free ‘Infantil’ (0-6) care and this will save a lot of money for families,” according to one.
But when it came to schooling there was mixed reactions, with several people in Catalonia expressing dislike of the emphasis put on Catalan teaching over Castilian Spanish.
And others complaining that although good, the state school system had been neglected, while private and semi-private schools thrived but were often connected with the church.
“In Madrid most semi private or private schools walk arm in arm with the Catholic Church and I don’t want this,” wrote one father.
The bilingual schools weren’t strong enough on English, early enough yet some felt that overall it was a better schooling environment than they had at home.
“The schools are more like a family unit unlike English schools,” said Carla.
“Go for public schools nearby your neighbourhood, it’s easier for kids to pick up language because when they live close to their friends and they have more chance to interact with friends and that helps in language learning,” advised Cass Tann in Barcelona.
Bringing up bilingual
Almost every respondent emphasised the advantages of bringing up their children with two languages.
“Don’t be worried about the children finding it difficult to learn Spanish, they pick it up really quickly,” reassured onne mother.
Late bed times
Quite a few people remarked on how the Spanish hours were difficult to adapt to for northern European parents, but on the whole, respondents felt it was more valuable to adopt the Spanish way of doing things.
But one father summed it up with this piece of advice: “It’s true the late meal and bed times can be a little strange at first but if you stick to your own country’s traditions, you miss out and more importantly so will your kids.”
Parenting is everybody’s business
A few readers remarked on how foreign parents in Spain will have adapt to people chipping in with their parenting advice and opinions.
“Get used to everyone thinking they can talk to your child,” advised Emma Phillips from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
“People will always lend a hand but will also butt in where they shouldn’t,” agreed another.
“Every person and dog on the street feel they have the right to tell you how to raise your child and if you do something out of the norm it can be frowned upon,” recounts Nunn. “I once had an old couple threaten to phone the police because I was out in the rain letting my son jump in puddles and despite being in a wet suit, they were disgusted.”
One father felt the biggest challenge was in the different perceptions of the role of the parents.
“Spanish dads can be quite lazy and tend to leave everything to the mother to do,” explained one hands-on father. “My wife is always hearing how lucky she is to have a ‘hands on dad’ and it annoys her, and she is 100 percent right, that it shouldn’t be seen as something strange that a dad changes nappies or likes to spend time with his kids alone.”