In this time of globalisation, the number of families moving abroad is increasing. Relocating to an international city like Barcelona opens up a whole new world of opportunities. But no matter how excited everyone is about it, moving away from your home country is bound to stir up some mixed emotions—in you as a parent, but especially in your children. However, if you plan carefully and consider these tips to prepare your kids for this next step, moving overseas can be one of the most rewarding experiences they will ever have.
Communicate the details.
It’s important that you tell your children about the move as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean bombarding them with every last detail all at once. Explain where, when and why you will be relocating, and then give them some time to digest the news. Be patient if they don’t immediately understand exactly what is going on. Especially with younger kids, it may take longer for everything to sink in and for them to be mentally ready to accept such a major transition. On the other hand, children take less time to adjust to new situations, which is very helpful when settling down in your new city.
Communication is a two-way street. For a successful move to Barcelona, it is vital that your kids know they can talk to you about anything they’re thinking or feeling. You have to be their sounding board—the person with the answers to their questions and concerns, but also the person who giddily jumps around with them at the idea of spending Saturdays at the beach and Sundays in the mountains.
Remember not to overhype the circumstances. Be excited and optimistic, but also honest and open. The more your kids feel they know—what will be great, but what will be difficult, as well—the more confident they will be upon arrival.
Listen to them.
When your kids do share their thoughts, ideas and feelings with you, actively listen to them. Stop whatever you’re doing at that moment and listen, listen listen.
Allow them to make decisions.
You don’t want your kids to feel like this is something happening to them. If they feel that you’ve made all the decisions and forced them to silently fall in line, they may come to resent the move. Let them make some decisions on their own and decide other things as a family. These can range from simpler decisions such as what they will bring, to more complicated decisions like what neighbourhood to live in.
Allowing them to have a say in family matters will give them a newfound sense of importance. According to Mom It Forward, from a child’s point of view, they simply want to matter. When kids make their own decisions, it also teaches them responsibility. Say you let your daughter decide what clothes to pack, even though you know her suitcase won’t contain a single pair of practical shoes. Once she’s in Barcelona and her feet hurt from having to walk everywhere in heels, she’ll know better next time. Children and young adults have to learn that not all decisions have a positive outcome and grow from this process to make better decisions in the future.
Ask them to research the city and teach you things about it.
By encouraging your children to do a little research about Barcelona, you will most likely increase their excitement about the move. After all, there are worse places than Barcelona to relocate to.
While they click through articles and photos of the city, suggest that they make a slideshow or scrapbook of all the places they want to visit. The zoo. The beach. Tibidabo. Montserrat. The attractions go on and on. Then if anyone starts to get grumpy from the struggles of packing or too many emotional goodbyes, you can sit down as a family and look at it. This will remind them that there are adventures to be had and things to look forward to, like holidays! Barcelona has many unique celebrations throughout the year. At the end of September, there’s a week-long festival called La Mercè to honour the feast day of one of Barcelona’s patron saints. It’s the city’s biggest bash, including cultural and artistic presentations, fire runs, endless partying in the streets and more. Ask your kids to look up other Catalan-specific holidays and explain them to you. They can also research how their new home celebrates cross-cultural holidays. What do Catalans eat for Christmas dinner? What exactly is a ‘Caga Tió’, and why do the Three Kings bring kids toys instead of Santa?
If your children love to perform, they can learn stories of Barcelona’s past, and one night before you move can be dedicated to his or her telling of the tales. For example, did you know Barcelona’s founding origins are still in dispute to this day? Maybe one of your kids can tell you the two Spanish legends concerning its establishment and together you can decide which one you believe.
Find out what they’ll miss most.
If the answer is food, check out restaurants or shops that might sell that item. A Taste of Home is an English supermarket located in the Sant Antoni neighbourhood. With over 2,000 products, your kids are bound to find something that can satisfy their cravings. If your children are used to food brands from farther across the pond, there are also a couple of Taste of America stores in the city. Don’t let them rely on these places for every meal, instead save their favourite ingredients from home for a special dinner when someone is feeling particularly homesick.
If they say they’ll miss a certain thing, take it with you. As long as it’s packable or shippable, that worry is fairly easy to avoid. Plus, being surrounded by familiar things in their new home can provide children with a sense of security. Games and books, soft blankets and picture frames are all comforting things to have close by.
And if what they’ll miss most is a person, well that’s where our next tip comes into play.
Make a plan for keeping in touch.
Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with loved ones around the globe. Make sure your children know that the goodbyes they say before the move are not forever.
One of the best ways to keep in touch with friends and family is through Skype. No matter what device you use, Skype allows you to make video calls, group video calls and voice calls, instant message and more. The best part? It’s all free. It’s possible to call mobiles and landlines any time you want at super low rates, too. There’s also FaceTime, Whatsapp, Viber, etc. Who knows, maybe your kids will even take this opportunity to write letters or send postcards to their friends back home. They can get as creative as they want in order to keep those relationships—their roots, really—intact.
Connecting through multi-player online gaming is another option. Video games such as Minecraft are hugely popular and give kids a chance to catch up with friends while doing something they enjoy.
Prepare them for the new language.
There’s a large network of expat families living in Barcelona, which provides plenty of opportunities to mingle with native English speakers. That being said, to make the move to Barcelona as worthwhile as possible, children should learn the local language. The faster they understand and speak Spanish and/or Catalan, the easier it will be for them to adapt to their new surroundings and take part in this other culture. Not knowing any Spanish, they may feel overwhelmed in public places where they can’t communicate with anyone. And even if you send them to an international school, speaking Spanish will help them make a more diverse group of friends.
Prior to your move, teach them simple greetings and phrases to get them off to a good start. And once you’re settled in, the article Learning a second language: How parents can help offers advice on supplementing your children’s continued language acquisition.
Focus on their interests.
Your kids might have a hard time imagining what their lives will be like in Barcelona. Focus on the positive aspects of their future and gear your answers toward their interests. If one of your kids is a football fan, you’re in luck. Adults, teenagers and toddlers alike, from all different countries, obsess over FC Barcelona. Brushing up on club and player knowledge will allow them to naturally strike up a conversation with most people they meet. No matter what their interests—horseback riding, dance, basketball, art, science or even rock climbing—there is a place in the city where your kids can continue to enjoy their favourite extracurricular activities.
These are just a few ways to prepare your kids for the move to Barcelona. In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your family is in for a great adventure. Any bumps of apprehension, sadness or anger along the way can be overcome together. Now open your suitcases and start packing!