We all know how stressful relocating within the UK can be, so imagine what it can be like if you’re emigrating to Spain with your children!
The decision to move home doesn’t just impact us as grownups, it affects our kids in much the same way too. Whether we like it or not, choosing to move means that we’re responsible for how hard we’re about to make our children’s lives. Moving home is a decision that shakes up their very world as they know it.
But before you get your knickers in a twist about how potentially stressful taking your children to another country might be, stop! As an expat, I fully understand what it’s like moving to Spain with your children, but we did it, and I’m still here, and not a grey hair, breakdown or aneurysm was had when we moved.
Although emigrating is full of changes that you wouldn’t ordinarily encounter whilst moving about the UK, the adjustments you do go through are neither big, bad, or scary, especially if you’ve planned your move properly. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that your family’s move to another country isn’t going to be the nightmare that you think it could be.
Natalie Goldberg, a renowned American author once said that
“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency”
which is very true. The things we sometimes find ourselves tearing our hair out for, just aren’t worth all the significance or urgency we put on them.
So to help you have a harmonious move to Spain with your children, here’s my list of the 7 most essential tips to helping your move go smoothly.
(All links in this article open in a new tab of your browser, so you don’t lose your place!)
Emigrating to Spain with your children – before the move
Tip #1 – Talk to your kids and involve them in the moving process
Change can be pretty scary for anyone, and even if your child says that they’re excited about moving house, there’s no doubt that they’re still going to experience feelings of confusion, sadness and frustration.
They’ll worry about leaving everything they know behind, their school; their best friends, the comforts of their old home town, their daily routines. Because moving home can sometimes be exasperating, it’s no surprise then that stress can rear its ugly head in many ways. Children and adults alike can throw tantrums, get despondent, or become incredibly anxious.
So talk to your children, keep them in the loop at all times. These conversations don’t have to be difficult. Just focus on all the new, exciting things which lie ahead, rather than highlighting all the things which they might miss out on, or might have to leave behind.
Continuity is very important, so explain that even though you’re moving to a new country which has a different language and different cultures, there are some things which aren’t ever going to change. Reassure them that even though life in Spain will be very different, there’ll be lots of things that you’ll still do together as a family, like have breakfast together every day, or play football together after school.
Another important thing to do is to always comfort your children. “I’m always here for you, and you’re not alone” is one of the best things you can say to them. Actually, it’s something kind to say to your partner too if they’re feeling stressed as well.
It might be hard for you to hear the pain of your children, particularly if they’ve not fully understood what’s happening and are sad and confused, but your attention and dedication will be a major source of consolation for them.
Tip #2 – Learn about Spain, together
Learning about your new home with your children is a fantastic way to alleviate their worries, and it’s also a great way to get them super excited about the move. It might even get you feeling more relaxed about the whole process!
A wonderful way of getting your children on board with the move is to ask them to create a scrapbook for you, documenting everything about your family adventure of moving to Spain.Help your kids make the scrapbook by visiting your local library on an exciting research expedition. Search the aisles for interesting books about Spain, take some out, and read through them together.
Browse the internet with them, show them amazing photographs of their new town or city, and maybe even contact the local tourist board of where you’re moving to with a list of all your children’s questions about their new place.
Printing off photographs of your new home, particularly the tourist attractions, land marks and beaches, is another good way of helping your children get accustomed to the idea of moving, as they’ll be able to start picturing living there.
It is also a good idea to involve your children in the search for your new home. Looking at properties online with them will get them used to new styles of architecture, as a lot of properties in Spain are apartments.
Living in a colorful, historical apartment is something your children may find novel after having to deal with stairs in a house for so long! After a while, they’ll be able to tell you which of the properties you’re looking at are their favourite.
You can also ask them what they think is important to have in their new house and that you’ll try to find somewhere that has those things, although it may be hard to find an apartment which has a swimming pool, a games room and a garden big enough for a pony to fit in!
Another great way of getting your children excited about moving, is to help them with starting to learn Spanish. There are a lot of bright, colorful apps designed in mind for children to make learning a new language exciting and interesting. Your children will love the opportunity to show up their mum or dad by learning a few Spanish phrases before you get a chance to!
Tip #3 – Let your children pack their own things
Getting your children involved in packing may sound a bit nerve-wracking, after all, us grownups tend to have a lot of valuable items which are also inexplicably breakable! So whilst we may not want them to help pack the kitchen or living room, you can help them pack up their bedroom.
Your children will value being able to pack their own suitcases and put their own things away in their own boxes, and it’s a great opportunity to talk to them if you need them to part with a few things. Rather than being told what they need to get rid of, they’ll appreciate being able to choose what they leave behind, if they have to.
Tip #4 – Throw your children a “see you again soon!” party
It’s very important for your children to have both a positive experience about leaving, whilst at the same time, seeking closure about going. After all, your move abroad is most likely a permanent one, and you might only come back to the UK for short visits in the future. Hosting a party for them, with all the family and their friends around, will provide them with a lasting, happy memory of the UK.
This will, in turn, put them in a positive frame of mind for their relocation to Spain. Remember, don’t call it a goodbye party, because goodbyes are always sad. It’s a “see you again soon” party, because in the future, you’ll no doubt pop back to the UK for a visit to see nan and granddad!
Moving to Spain with your children – during the move
Tip #5 – Make sure they have enough to keep them entertained
Road trips, even in the UK, can be quite tiresome events, as your kids get bored. So whether you’re flying or driving to Spain, make sure your children have plenty of things on hand to keep them
entertained. Letting your children choose the things they want to keep with them is a good way of knowing that they have something which they’ll definitely find stimulating and enjoyable.
Another good way to make sure your children won’t get bored is to make up some art packs for them. You can find a lots of crayons, markers, paper, craft materials and coloring from places like Wilkos or the Pound Shop. These packs will give your children something to do when the journey starts to drag a bit.
Consider buying your children their own digital cameras. They don’t have to be expensive, and there are always people selling second hand ones online, but giving your kids a camera is a great way of making them sit up and take notice of their new surroundings and get excited from seeing new things.
Make sure to have plenty of kid-friendly tunes on hand to fill the car with soothing sounds when things seem to be getting a bit raucous, after all, music tames the savage beast!
You may even be able to find podcasts which talk about the place you’re moving to, which should hopefully get the children interested in spending some time being quiet and listening to people talk about Spain, especially if the topics covered are all about the country’s exciting festivals, or yummy foods. If your kids are starting to get restless or are complaining about being bored, start a sing-a-long, or play family games like eye spy or 20 questions to give your children something to focus on.
The most important thing however, is to make sure that your children’s tablets or games consoles are fully charged, as these are always a sure fire way of keeping the kids quiet!
Tip #6 – Make sure there are snacks aplenty
If you’re driving to Spain, having treats, or even a full blown picnic ready to hand in the car is very important, because even adults get a bit ratty when they’re hungry! Using well-timed snack breaks can break up your journey and they’ll give everyone the energy they need to keep calm and carry on.
Tip #7 – Take breaks as often as you can
If time allows it on your road trip through Spain, try to stop off at some tourist attractions or landmarks for your children to enjoy and to take pictures of. No-one likes being cooped up in a car for hours on end and just stopping at a motorway garage for petrol and a toilet break can be quite gloomy. If you’ve managed to plan a list of quirky stops along your route, then if you do need a toilet break, you might as well do it somewhere memorable and fun.
So there you have it, my top tips for helping your move with kids to Spain run as smoothly as possible.
Remember, embarking on a new life in a different country is a major step for anyone. It takes a good deal of nerve, enthusiasm and determination to overcome the potential obstacles and stresses this adventure might spring on you. If you’re moving to Spain with your children, you don’t necessarily need these qualities by the bucket load, but you do need to make sure that you plan ahead so that your kids feel genuinely reassured, comforted, excited, entertained and most of all, happy that they’re going to be moving somewhere new.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, you may enjoy Moving to Spain … an Expat Guide, Easter in Spain – Fantastic festivities in the Sun, Gardening in Spain for Expats – What you need to know or Moving to Spain … Regions guide for expats.