Category: Living abroad in Sweden (Page 1 of 11)

Swedish School Vs English School

For those who have read the blog’s early posts, you will remember we  chose to home educate our little lady by taking her out of her school in England, and to not put our twins into the English schooling system.  However, when we moved here to Sweden, we realised that we had no option but to use the Swedish school system as you are not allowed to home educate in Sweden. But we were more than happy with that, as it was one of our big reasons for living in Sweden.  This post explains some of what we have found very different between Swedish school and English school.  Of course these are our opinions based on what we feel is right for our family, and I do realise that every school is different in both countries. So there will be some reading this that disagree with one or the other system (or both), and of course these observations are based on our children’s experience here.  What we feel is right for our children and family might not be right for yours, but I just wanted to highlight a few of the things that are working for us 🙂

So What Is So Different About Swedish School?

The Starting Age:

They go into förskoleklass (the year before the formal classes start) the year they turn 6 (so my twins were quite young, and most of the class were already 6).  This is in contrast to the class being 4 years of age starting in England.  You may think this would leave the Swedish children either struggling to catch up with their English counterparts, or that children in the Swedish system must be missing out.  However, there is research to show this is not the case.  For example, evidence has shown, that by the time children reach 11 years of age, generally reading skills have averaged out between early starters and later starters.  My daughter is ahead in maths, but only because she has had a 3 year head start on her school friends here, and it just gives her a little breathing space when she is coping with learning a new language.  They have many more years of just playing before their formal education starts here, and there is a lot that can be learnt through play!

The Length Of The School Day:

This is much shorter.  In England our daughter started school just before 9am and finished at around 3.15pm.  Here, in Swedish school, kick off is at 8am (OK that might seem rather early in comparison, but it gets rid of that ‘inbetweeny’ not enough time to really do anything space in the mornings!), and it does get the school day over and done with earlier leaving more time for….you guessed it, play!  The finishing times change, depending on what age you are and what day of the week you are on. So this took a lot of getting used to and has kept me on my toes….especially since I have 3 children in the school to get finishing times straight for. My twins finish at either midday or 1pm depending on the day of the week (12pm three times though and 1pm twice), and my little lady now has a longer school day, nearing the same sort of length as in the England. But this is the first year she has a few days like this and she is the equivalent of a year 5 in England, and then she finishes earlier on other days.  For example, on a Friday she is finished by 1245.  For us it also means we can carry on doing our own little things at home, similar to before they started back into a formal school system.

Outdoor Is Considered Important:

Those of you who knew us in England will know about my despair about children being cooped up indoors unnecessarily, the tipping point when one bright autumn day they couldn’t play outdoors because “the leaves were wet”.  Here they can be outdoors in almost any weather.  When it is raining for example there is a red flag up and the children are allowed to decide themselves whether they would like to head out or not (everyone invests properly here in their outdoor gear, and the children have proper footwear as appropriate too).  Those short Swedish school days also include a chunky morning play time, and an hour to play and eat your lunch.  So even though they are at school for less of the day, they still get outdoors just as much (if not more as they go off outdoors for some lesson time as well) than their English counterparts.

Homework:

Swedish schools believe heavily in the children’s time being their play time.  Forget homework coming home at 4 years of age.  Our daughter has started bringing some reading home now, at age 10 years, and even then it is one chapter a week and a few short questions (this I can imagine takes us a little longer than the average class mate due to our language issues), but it is still considerably less than what she was doing when we pulled her out of the English system in year 3 over there…..spellings every week for a test, some written English, and some maths on top of her reading.

Calling Staff By Their First Names:

There would be mass panic in England that this would reduce respect and cause discipline issues.  We have not seen anything of that over here.  In Swedish school there seems to be a mutual respect between staff and children and it seems to work just fine.

No School Uniforms:

Again this doesn’t seem to cause any issues.  In fact, it is a lot easier to dress them practically for the weather, whatever the season, when you are dressing them in their own clothing!  Her classmates have looked aghast at a photo that our little lady has taken into school to show what she was wearing, and that it was the same as everyone else, without hardly any deviation.

No Shoes Indoors:

This is a concept throughout Sweden, not just in Swedish school and it is so good for their little feet  and their development!!  But it also means there is a home for the large winter boots on the shoe rack, or the wellies they need for when it is pouring with rain all day.  Plus it makes for excellent sliding along the corridors 😉

I do realise that the Swedish school system might not for everyone, and some people may find it a little too laid back. However, we find it works so well for our three and we can see the benefits of how things are done here.  There is less work compared to their age group in England, especially in the younger classes. There are longer breaks in the school day. There seem to be more holidays when you take them over the course of a whole school year. But the children are happy, and the adults here are well educated.  I can see a lot of working parents might raise a hand to have a problem with the shorter days, but with heavily subsidised before and after school care, known as fritidshem (somewhere in the region of £80 per month, per child) even that beats the private costly alternatives in England…especially when that involves holiday club care as well.Swedish School Vs English School, Swedish school, school in Sweden, Sweden education, www.mammasschool.co.uk

The Swedish Kitchen – Cooking Outdoors

The beautiful Swedish countryside is full of outdoor fire pits, making cooking outdoors very accessible to everyone.  They come in all shapes, sizes, and conditions, but there is no doubt about it, being able to do your cooking outdoors on a hike or a camp, safely and responsibly, adds to the experience and memories, especially for our three children.  

There is no knowing what you will find until you reach one.  Some are marked on trail maps, others are not, but they are little gems tucked away in the Swedish countryside, usually complete with a stunning view to admire whilst you eat your tasty treat.  Some are very basic, just a few rocks.  Others are luxurious, with the ability to set your grill rack at different heights, and complete with picnic tables.  Sometimes a kind person has provided wood for the fire and left it in a little shelter, and occasionally there is a bucket which you can use to collect water in (which we then have standing next to the fire as a safety precaution).  Due to not knowing what we will come across, and being out with three small children, I carry our fire wood (I’m getting quite strong!), just to be on the safe side.  As we get more experienced and the children get older, then we can think about rummaging around the ground for fuel supplies. There is something very special about being able to cook over an open fire, and we now have made a habit of doing this at least once a week, rain, sun, or snow…..in the winter it provides a well needed warming meal, and in the summer, a break in the hike to relax while the children play for a few hours.  If you need any ideas of what to cook (both sweet and savoury), I have lots of outdoor recipes that are quick and easy 🙂 The provision of the fire pits have benefits far more reaching than just being able to do your cooking outdoors.  They allow you to connect together, and pause a while from whatever adventure you are on.  Usually we are hiking.  The children either immerse themselves playing in nature, or are busy helping me, learning good bush craft and survival skills as they go along.  They have now all learnt what you need and how to start a fire, as well as looking after it, and putting it out safely.  Also, importantly, they have learnt how to behave around a lit campfire.

Top Tips for Cooking Outdoors

  1. Carry your food, water, and fuel for the trip
  2. Have a little fire starting kit ready made up.  You can see what is in ours here
  3. Allow lots of time.  This is not an activity that can be rushed, both for safety and enjoyment reasons.
  4. Be prepared to improvise, whether with cooking accessories, or fuel supplies.
  5. Let your children help.  It teaches them valuable skills.
  6. Leave no trace of you being there, so there is less impact on the environment.  If you’ve moved rocks to create a windbreak, put them back etc
  7. Use fire pits when you can, or a stove if there isn’t one.
  8. Take ALL your waste home.
  9. Put any fires out completely before you pack up and leave.  We don’t want wildlife hurt, nature harmed, or it to become a safety risk.
  10. If you are using firewood from the surrounding area, only use from the ground.  Don’t go chopping or tearing branches from trees and bushes.

We really enjoy eating our food cooked on a campfire, and I find the children tend to eat better too!!  Make sure you check out our outdoor cooking recipes, and next week I will go over campfire basics, and campfire problem solving here on the blog.The Swedish Kitchen-cooking outdoors, Campfire, campfires, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, bushcraft, Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chokladbollar – Chocolate Ball Recipe For Chokladbollens Dag

Friday 11th May (fredag elfte maj) is chokladbollens dag….yes, that’s right, they have a whole day dedicated to eating chokladbollar (chocolate balls)!  The longer I live here, the more I feel this country is the perfect place for my sweet tooth to have taken residence.  It seems there is always a yummy treat to spend a day officially celebrating!  We have celebrated cinnamon bun day, “Fat Day” with semlor buns, and waffle day.  Now it is time for chocolate ball day.  So, in order to show we were integrating well into Swedish culture and life, we whizzed up a batch of these no-bake treats (like we really needed a reason!!).  Give them a go and tell me what you think.

So what do you need to make this gooey treat for chokladbollens dag?

Ingredients for Chokladbollar:

250g soft butter

400g rolled oats

175g caster sugar

4 tbs cocoa powder

4 tbs strong cooled coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

desiccated coconut

This made around 30 balls, but I think it should easily reach 40-50 if you don’t have a 10 year old chocoholic deciding the size of them 🙂

Method To Make Chokladbollar

  1. Whizz all the ingredients together, apart from the coconut.
  2. Pop into the fridge to allow them to go a little firmer.
  3. Once firm, roll into small balls, and then roll each ball into the desiccated coconut to cover it.
  4. They should keep in the fridge for around a week….ahem….if you haven’t got me living with you!!

These are very easy and quick to make, and perfect for little people who enjoy “helping” in the kitchen.  Although to be fair my little lady is actually a help now, rather than a hindrance.  As for the twins……….!!!!

 

choklad bollar, chocolate balls, chokladbollens dag, chocolate balls day, Swedish food, Swedish recipe, Sweden www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

A Swedish Easter – Påsk

I would like to share with you a little about what a Swedish Easter (Påsk) is like compared to back in the UK, and whether or not we have fallen in love with yet another part of Sweden’s culture.  Easter back in the UK for us, was always a mix of Scandinavian traditions and English ones, with me having my Norwegian background. So a Swedish Easter for us is only a little different, and not too much of a culture shock.

 

  1.  First of all the decorating of our home.  We have always hung little wooden, glass, or painted eggs onto branches around our home.  This is a Norwegian tradition I have always done in our UK home, but has become increasingly more popular the past few years in the UK as well. A Swedish Easter is no different.
  2. They adorn their branches in the garden with colourful and bright feathers.  This brightens up the outdoor space where spring is struggling to be seen, and adds colour whilst we wait for the natural colour of spring blooms.

3.  Eggs are hung in the windows, which are visible both from inside and from outside, and make the home look cosy and inviting.

4.  The Swedish Easter tradition with chocolate is slightly different too.  There is definitely still plenty of it, but instead of masses of foil wrapped Easter eggs, here in Sweden you have a beautifully decorated paper shell of an egg (available in various sizes, but beware they hold a lot more than you think!) filled with candy.  Although there is still a lot of candy available, I like this idea, as it is a lot more simple. Also, the children are less saturated with an abundance of chocolate Easter eggs, which you then spend the following months trying to let them eat without feeling guilty with them having so much chocolate!  They are very pretty, and best of all reusable 😉  Of course, we will have an Easter egg hunt in the garden too!

5.  Eggs (the chicken variety), and fish feature heavily on the food side of the Swedish Easter celebrations.  Eggs for breakfast, eggs on open sandwiches, and various fish dishes including pickled herring (one of my mother’s favourites I’ve never quite been able to adopt!), all washed down with some good strong Swedish snaps.

6.  Many children dress up as witches at Easter in Sweden, and on Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdag), you’ll spot children with face paints on and broomsticks. Some will be knocking on doors asking for treats, a bit like in the UK at Halloween.

7.  Swedish Easter is also the first long weekend of the year, with potentially warmer weather, that people head out to their summer houses.  The weather has to do a bit of a rapid turn around to make this come true this year!  We are lucky that our new home is in a place that people would consider is somewhere to have a summer house, so we can stay in the comfort of our home and enjoy our surroundings 🙂

8.  Påskmust:  For those of you who read our Swedish Christmas post  you may remember reading about the drink Julmust.  This is a very sweet drink…think Coke, then think sweeter still! In fact, I can feel my teeth wanting to fall out when I drink it!  Well, it is wheeled out again at Easter when the same drink is re-branded as Påskmust.  I do serve my trio this, but I have to say I cringe inwardly every time I do, thinking of the poor dentist!

 

I hope you have enjoyed learning about a Swedish Easter, and have fun celebrating it wherever you are, whatever traditions you are keeping 🙂

A Swedish Easter, Påsk, Easter, Easter in Sweden, Spring www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Våffeldagen – A Day Of Eating Waffles

Våffeldagen is a whole day in Sweden dedicated to eating waffles….nom nom!  It is Sunday 25th March this year.  It is another way of celebrating the start of spring after the cold dark winter here in Sweden.  The name originally comes from “Vårfrudagen” meaning our lady’s day, which is on the same day, but said in a poorly articulated way, can be mistaken for Våffeldagen.

On Våffeldagen you make waffles and serve them with fruit jams, cream, cheese, or fresh fruit.  We have a special Scandinavian heart shaped waffle iron to make ours.  Try our simple recipe below for some lovely tasting waffles, and you can also see how we have cooked campfire waffles using the same recipe 🙂

Ingredients For Waffles:

3 dl plain flour

2 x eggs

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

3 tsp butter

1 tsp cardamom

3 dl milk

Method For Making Waffles:

  1. Mix the sugar and butter well.
  2. Measure out the wet and remaining dry ingredients.
  3. Add a little of each alternatively to the bowl, making sure it is all mixed in well with no lumps, before adding more.
  4. Warm up your waffle iron and grease as needed. Then ladle in the mixture to cook the waffles.

We then serve them up while still warm.  Coffee is very good with them 🙂

Våffeldagen, våffel, Waffle day, waffle, waffles, waffle recipe, Swedish food, Food in Sweden, Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

 

Cost Of Living In Sweden – Risk & Reward

When we first heard about the possibility of moving to Sweden, there was a lot of research we needed to do.  One of the main things to look into was the cost of living in Sweden.  It is OK to think you need a certain income coming in, but how would the cost of living in Sweden compare to the cost of living in the UK.  We researched as best we could from a distance, and in a very short space of time.  However, since hitting the ground here (running!!), there are a few things we now know about a lot better, so I thought I would put together some main points and differences about the cost of living in Sweden.

Housing:

There is no doubt about it, you can get a lot more for your money here than back in the UK.  Yes, prices around the main cities can be comparable to ours in the UK, but once you move only a few km’s away from there the prices drop significantly.  Whereas in the UK, you can live a good distance from a main town and still be paying a lot for very little (and yes we did used to live in the south of England so prices were also higher there).  We now live around 15km from a big town with amazing transport links in and out, considering it is a Swedish island too.  We have what can be called a proper garden, not a postage stamp.  This was an amazing bonus point for the cost of living in Sweden, as it was by far our biggest outgoing.

Home Insurance:

This seems to be around double what we would have paid back in the UK for a similar sized home, with contents.  I am not sure if it is because we are living in a wooden house now (the insurance comes complete with free fire extinguisher), but this is a cost that needs to be borne in mind when budgeting.

Groceries:

I have found a weekly shop for 5 people roughly balances out, but if you are big meat eaters you need to budget more for this household expenditure.  We have one vegan in the home and I tend to eat that meal too, and the children get a main meal at school every day, so we do not buy meat so much for everyday use.  Expect to pay double for meat than you would in a standard supermarket in the UK.  Cheese is also another constantly pricey item.  Otherwise most things are comparable in price.  You get the odd randomly higher priced item; raisins, washing powder, and hot chocolate are a few! But generally, our outgoings on food are very similar.  I was pleasantly surprised when we started buying alcohol.  I had thought it would be a lot more than the UK, but it is around the same for a bottle of wine.  Four cans of beer would perhaps work out a pound or two more, but it is not a deal breaker.

Eating Out:

Whilst we don’t really get to do this (I can’t take credit for the photo, that is a friend’s mouth watering meal), it is more expensive.  Two coffees, a hot chocolate, and 2 small pieces of cake will easily set you back over 200 SEK (around £20), while a meal out will be similar in comparison.  Thank heavens McDonald’s and IKEA compare similarly!!  So you can always downgrade to those options, although I do love a good meal at IKEA!!  As for drinks, you can easily pay double for a glass of wine or a pint (half litre!) of beer.

Cost of Running A Car:

We have a Volvo V70 (yes I know, very Swedish, but we were limited with options as we had to fit three car seats across the back seat).  The cost of buying this was similar to if we had bought one in the UK the same age etc, and insuring it is similar too.  Here though you insure the vehicle (so anyone qualified can drive it), rather than a person.  You also mustn’t forget to include your wild animal cover for those deer and elks that like to give you heart failure as you are driving along.  Fuel is also about the same price as well.

Utility Bills:

We are paying a little more over the course of a year for electricity than we did in the UK for both electricity and gas, we only use electricity here.  Bear in mind though it is on 24/7 over the Swedish winter, whereas in the UK we got away with a couple of hours twice a day.  Water costs are about the same, but what is significantly cheaper is everything that comes under the title “council tax” in the UK.  We pay for bins separately and you chose a plan that suits you and your rubbish production.  We are a family of five and have alternate week collections for food and combustible waste. Similar to UK and costs around £20/month.  Everything else (cardboard, metal, plastic, glass etc) we take to the recycling places which are found all over the place. Our nearest is about a 5 minute walk, or no time at all in the car.  Don’t think big recycling centres like in the UK (“the tip”), think a group of metal skips like bottle banks, that you just pull up, sort, and go again.  The rest of our home tax is around £48/month compared to over £170/month for our council tax in the UK.

Public Transport:

Dadda uses the busses daily for his commute into town about 15km away.  He pays £60/month for his travel card for busses that turn up on time, for a regional area for up to around 25km radius away from the main town, for as much travel as he wants (or anybody else, as anyone can use the card), and up to two children under 7 go free with a paying adult.  It is also very reliable.

Children’s Activities:

This was a big outgoing for us in the UK having 3 children.  We don’t over schedule them, but we insist on swimming lessons. Then if there is something they want to do, we let them within reason.  Swimming is hard to compare as the lessons here are 40 minutes, plus our older one can actually attend twice a week if she wanted to.  It averages out to not being too much more than we were paying in the UK.  Our little lady is a member of the (sea) Scouts here and her scouting membership is around £32 for the year.  Back in the UK we paying around £24 for a term for Brownies.  We pay £40/year each for the boys to do a local gymnastic class, plus twin 1 does an hour of football a week too for that price.  Twin 2 could, but he chooses not to.  It is a pass to do whatever is on offer.  The little lady’s modern/jazz dance class works out a lot cheaper….half the price of what we paid in the UK, which was around average price there. But when she and twin 1 did do ballet that was at least double.  So, it can depend on what your child enjoys, but on average it is comparable to the UK and not a shock to the system when you move.

I hope this little insight into the cost of living in Sweden has been helpful if you are thinking about moving abroad. If not, it may have been fun to have a little nosy at how we have found it!  If you are thinking of moving abroad, but not to Sweden, I hope it can give you some direction to research in terms of budgeting.  It was so hard to get a picture of what the cost of living in Sweden would be before we moved.

Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are about the cost of living in Sweden, especially if you have moved here too, and let me know if there is anything you have found living here 🙂

The cost of living in Sweden, Sweden cost of living, Cost of moving abroad, cost of living abroad, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Moving To Sweden – Tips For Your Arrival

We were very lucky when we moved, Dadda had been in the country for 8 weeks before I and the three children arrived in Sweden.  This was due to the time it took us to find, purchase, and move into a house.  However, if he hadn’t been our “advanced party” a few things may have tripped us up moving to Sweden.  However, with no children or family logistics to distract him, Dadda was able to get himself sorted out, get paperwork done, find out what needed to be done, and settle into a new country, before the rest of us landed and we needed help.  He sussed out what was needed to be done ready for us.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

So what would be my top tips for moving to Sweden?

Get A Personal Number ASAP:

This is your top priority when moving to Sweden.  It really is a magic number that is the key to unlocking your life in Sweden.  Without it you can’t get a bank account, library card, supermarket membership (even for self scanning), the list goes on….

Sit Back And Wait:

Be prepared for things to take time, from paperwork to home WiFi being installed.  Nothing is done in a rush here, and as frustrating as that can seem when you are still waiting for Försäkringskassan to sort out your child benefit payments a year after your move (they prefer to write a letter to you and send it via Swedish snail mail when they hit a snag), you need to accept this pace of life with good grace, and plan for it 🙂

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Don’t Plan To Get Things Done In The Summer:

Sweden is on holiday in the summer.  Yes, that is right, the whole of Sweden (or so it seems when you trying to get things done).  One reason for moving here was the Swedish work/life balance, but when the full force of this hits you during an international move/immigration process, it can be a little frustrating.  Dadda arrived in Sweden in the middle of August.  He needed to make his arrival in Sweden official, settle into a new job, look for a house, and buy one, sort out purchasing a family car…..and everything else that goes along with all that.  However, during the summer months it is very hard to pin anyone down due to the fact that they are far too busy enjoying the Swedish summer months….fair enough, the summer life is fabulous here, but just don’t try and do your moving to Sweden then 🙂

Be Punctual:

We are English, we need to arrive 5 minutes before an appointment time or if we are meeting someone, it is polite.  It’s bred into us English people that that is the right behaviour.  Or if like me and you have three small children to drag out the house, you are always running, stressed, and late!  Either way, that is not Swedish.  In Sweden, there is a time for something, and you arrive bang on that time.  We once were viewing a house and had arrived 5 minutes early.  We looked around the property a little confused as to why no one was here from the estate agents.  Then, bang on the allotted time, a deluge of cars arrived, both other prospective buyers and the agent.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Sign Up For Supermarket Membership:

Obviously this is only after you have your personal number!!  See the first point made.  In the UK, you load your shopping onto a lovely long conveyor belt, wait your turn, then pack it up as it is gently passed down the other end, and then you pay.  Moving to Sweden, I suddenly found the whole packing a weekly food shop up for a family of 5 very stressful.  You can only load a small amount of shopping as the conveyor belt is very short.  This means that you have to keep loading it on, while it is being whizzed through by the cashier.  You don’t get a chance to pack anything before you must pay.  A barrier goes down so the next person’s food goes off down a different lane.  However, in the blink of an eye, their transaction is done, while your food is still needing to be packed and getting so squished as the conveyor belt is still moving everything to the other end in one big pile (handy tip….never put eggs, biscuits, cereal, or milk through first!!).  You now get all hot, sweaty, and stressed as the barrier lifts and the next person’s shopping hurtles towards yours! In short, get membership, get scanning as you go along, and make the food shop a lot easier to deal with 🙂

Embrace The Sauna:

These delights are everywhere, and you need to leave time to use them.  After going swimming you will head into your changing room (male or female), to be faced with everyone casually sitting naked in the sauna, drying after their shower…..mind boggling for a reserved Brit!  You will discover saunas floating in the fjord, so you can leap right into the fresh water afterwards.  You will wander round your little Swedish island discovering them in all shapes and sizes in gardens.

I hope, if you’re thinking of moving to Sweden you will find these tips helpful (if you have already moved you may have experienced them).  If you are not moving to Sweden, I am hoping you will have gained a little insight into what it is like to move abroad!  If you like my photos of Sweden in this post, hop over to Instagram where you can view more photos of  beautiful Sweden 🙂

Click here if you want to read more about moving and living in Sweden.

Moving to Sweden, living in Sweden, Moving abroad, living abroad, Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Photograph: Sonia Cave

I have had a similar article published by the Newbieguide.se and it can be found by clicking on the following link http://www.thenewbieguide.se/moving-sweden-tips-arrival/ 🙂

Expat Grief – The Ugly Side To Moving Abroad

I recently did an article on top tips to help children moving abroad.  That post was designed to help them settle in and make the move a smoother experience for them.  However, even if you follow all of these and more, you are likely at some point, for someone in the family to experience expat grief – the mourning of the loss of their old life.  For the adults who made the decision to move it may happen to them as well, but in this post I want to talk about the children, who moved because of their parents’ decision.  It is a scary and traumatic life changing event for any child. But generally, the older the child, the more they stand to lose, as the more they have built their little lives up where you were originally living.

What Is Expat Grief?

Expat grief is the mourning of the things you have lost by moving away from one country to another.  This might be friends, old homes, their hobbies, or family amongst other things.  Twin 1 desperately misses a certain play park we used to go to near where we lived.  It may be something totally unexpected and less obvious.  It is very important that these losses are worked through, and that time and energy is put into doing that, as and when it is needed.  From our experience with our eldest child, this doesn’t happen when there is a space free in the diary, it happens when you are up to your eyeballs in everything. But at that moment, the most important thing is to drop all the balls you are juggling and focus on that child grieving…be present right then.

Why Do Children Differ In Their Expat Grief?

Children manifest any grief in a different way from adults.  They live in the here and now, so while they play and laugh still, it would be easy to misinterpret that to mean that everything was rosy and the move had not provoked any emotional issues.  However, the sadness might still be there.  Their sadness is not as consistent as an adult’s, and we mustn’t forget it will still need handling sensitively and delicately even though it isn’t present and making its presence known all of the time.

Tips To Help A Child With Expat Grief:

  1. Recognise that they feel isolated in that moment.  Don’t say “but”, or try and remind them they have made new friends.  Their feelings of isolation are very real in that moment, and so trying to point out positives is not what is needed.  That is needed later, when they feel a little more positive, and then you can discuss what you do like about where you have moved to.
  2. Let them know they are not alone dealing with this, and that you are totally there with them 100% at that time (hence dropping everything for them there and then).  Be fully present with them.
  3. Tell them, that whatever feelings they are experiencing, whether anger, confusion, or sadness….(with our little lady at the moment she gets bouts of being very sad for her 2 best friends in the UK) that they are totally normal.  Don’t make light of their feelings or brush them under the carpet.  You need to be open and responsive to them.
  4. Be non-judgemental with your listening.  Be quiet and just LISTEN.  Don’t try and reason, justify, or explain. Just listen.
  5. Look for behaviours that flag up that your child is perhaps not coping as well as you thought.  This might be not wanting to do activities/hobbies they usually enjoy. They may be retreating away to their bedrooms and being less interactive with everyone else in the family. Or they may be suffering from mood swings that are unusual for them.
  6. When they are feeling a little bit better, and you have chatted about the losses that have happened, talk about the things that are not changing together.

It is so important not to leave expat grief unresolved or brush it under the carpet.  It will only rear its ugly head at a later date in the form of behavioural issues or emotional difficulties, or both.  Then as adults they may even suffer from difficulties connecting with others or depression.

I hope this post sheds some light on what your child/children may be going through after an international move (or even a move within the same country can have the same effects), and gives you some ideas of how to handle it.  Whilst I am not a psychologist or a counsellor, I am a Mamma that has three children that go through this in various ways or intensities.  I have felt the guilt all too strongly of taking them away from friends, family, much loved bedrooms, play parks, hobbies, and an area they loved when they hit a bout of sadness at their loss.  After all, I miss family and friends too, but at least it was mine and Dadda’s decision to move.  The children had very little say.  We have now been living in Sweden for over a year, but grief has no timeline and we are still coping with it and will be for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, they are very happy in between, but remember children live in the moment.  I can only hope that what we are doing when episodes do occur is helping our children to deal with their losses and come to terms with being an expat living in Sweden, and not giving them more issues to contend with as they grow into adults.

I would love to hear any comments or thoughts you have on this subject in the comments below.  Maybe you have made a move, international or otherwise, and you have some tips you can share on handling the grief when it arises.

Expat Grief - The Ugly Side of Moving Abroad, grief, expat grief, child grief, childhood grief, grieving child, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Allemansrätten – Our Impact On Nature & How To Minimise It

Allemansrätten is a unique Swedish concept, of the right of public access to roam freely almost anywhere in the countryside.  However, a few responsibilities come with this privilege.  We need to take care of nature and wildlife, respect landowners and others enjoying the countryside, respect the land and leave no trace that you have been there, and do not disturb and do not destroy.  It is a very rare concept, allowing you to enjoy the Swedish outdoors (which is important here in Sweden and I have written more about it http://mammasschool.co.uk/living-abroad/enjoying-outdoors-in-sweden-get/ ) in its full glory.  Despite not all countries having allemansrätten, there is still an impact of us enjoying activities such as camping, hiking, and cooking outdoors, so I want to discuss how we can minimise the impact and why.

Outdoor Cooking:

There is no doubt cooking outdoors on a campfire adds to the outdoor experience and memories, but it must be done safely and respectfully.

  1. Use fire pits where you can, or carry a light and portable stove with you.  Allemansrätten means we have the ability to cook on campfires on our outdoor expeditions. However, by using provided fire pits (we are lucky having a lot here in Sweden), or carrying your own stove, you are helping to protect the habitat of creatures in the area you have decided to cook in, plus reduced the risk of fire spreading. 
  2. You need to consider any fire dangers for the time of year (e.g is it very dry?) and bear in mind any local restrictions.  You don’t want to spread your fire.
  3. Take only wood from the ground, never from the trees, and gather it from a wide area.  You don’t want to remove everything from one small area as it has a job to perform in the ecosystem providing nutrients and habitats.
  4. Allow your wood to burn completely down to ash, and then spread them out when you are extinguishing your fire.
  5. Put out a fire with water not dirt,
  6. Avoid building your fire on rocks as it will scar them.  Also, if near coastal water that covers them after you’ve been and gone, when the water rapidly cools the rocks it may cause them to crack.
  7. Never leave your fire unattended, it is a fire risk and a hazard to any inquisitive animals.
  8. If you have moved any rocks, for example to make a bit of a wind break, make sure you return them to where they were.
  9. Make sure you take all your rubbish home again, to avoid harming animals and the countryside.

Pop over to my Outdoor Cooking category for some delicious outdoor recipes on my blog.

 

Hiking:

Hiking is good for us for so many different reasons.  Allemansrätten here means virtually nowhere is out of bounds.  I have written many times about the actual benefits of being in nature and the great outdoors .  So, I won’t go into detail about that here, but feel free to click on the links to read more 🙂  However, collectively enjoying the countryside means we will have an impact on the environment.  So here are some tips to help reduce that impact:

  1. Be polite and leave room for others.  Don’t take up the whole trail or path, so passers by are pushed off it.  People need to stick to them as much as possible…….
  2. Following on from my last point, trails are there for a reason, so use them.  It prevents us from trampling over the rest of the area and destroying vast quantities of the environment with our boots and feet.
  3. Be aware of wildlife, it is their home and they can be easily spooked.  Try and view them but not too close, give them some respect.  You don’t want to scare them as it could have disasterous consequences like mothers running off and leaving their young.
  4. Take all your rubbish home, EVERYTHING! Personal rubbish (I carry dog poop bags to clear up after us) as well as fruit peelings, and the usual more obvious rubbish clutter.  It can harm and injure animals, as well as look unsightly and harm the ecosystem.
  5. Don’t take anything…..only photos.  Each thing is part of a complicated ecosystem and has a function.
  6. Try and move quietly (we really struggle with this one!!).  You are going through someone’s home.
  7. Keep any pets you take with you on a lead.  It not only avoids them spooking the wildlife, but stops them veering off the trail too.

Wild Camping:

Allemansrätten means you can enjoy a “wild camping” experience.  We’ve enjoyed a wild camp , but you need to think carefully about how you go about it, and remember you are making a home in someone else’s home…you are a visitor.  Here are some tips to lessen your impact on their home:

  1. Avoid loud music and activities.
  2. Keep your group small.  Not only is it better for the environment, you’ll see and hear more too 🙂
  3. Try and leave any pets at home, but if they do come, keep them on a lead.
  4. Leave no trace you were ever there.  Tidy your campsite up after.  This not only means rubbish, but return nature to how it was…those boulders or rocks you moved to sleep more comfortably?  Pop them back.
  5. Bear in mind how you treat campfires or toileting activities as we have already mentioned above.
  6. Give animals space to use any natural water supply, especially early morning and evening.
  7. Do not leave any food out.  Not only does it attract animals (and some may be unwanted, especially for us living in Sweden), but it can also harm them.  Containers can injure, and some food can make them ill.
  8. Use biodegradable dish washing soap (or as we do, wipe them after a meal and save the proper washing up until you get home).  Spread any dish water out over a wide area.
  9. Only camp for a short time in any one place.

 

I hope you have found all these tips helpful as to how you can get into the great outdoors and enjoy it responsibly.  Do you think it’ll help you on your next trip out to be more considerate to the environment?  Comment below and let me know, especially if you think I have left something vital out 🙂

Allemansrätten, Our impact on nature and how to minimise it, allemansratten, every mans rights, Sweden, outdoors Sweden, impact on nature, hiking, camping, bushcraft, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Children Moving Abroad – Top Tips

There is no doubt about it, any moving house event is stressful. So add into that the fact that your children are moving abroad, and you have a very stressful event for them to handle.  However, there is also no doubt that moving abroad can be beneficial too.  It can provide a broader perspective about the world, whilst giving new experiences, and seeing a different culture, language, and way of living.  This is learning outside the classroom at its very best! In this family we love a bit of learning outside the classroom 🙂 Children moving abroad needn’t be a recipe for disaster, but a wonderful experience.  I have a few tips that may help anyone with children moving abroad.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

 

Before You Move

  1. Learn about the country together.  Make time to read books together, maybe make a scrapbook, and have a little look at the language with your child before you move.
  2. See if you can find any stories about children moving abroad.
  3. Discuss their feeling and emotions.  Allow all emotions to be vented.  Keep the communication channels open, so if something does crop up at a later date, they know they can come and chat it over with you.
  4. Before your move, make sure that they say a proper goodbye to their friends.  Take photos or swap little presents.  We had a little forest school party too as a way of getting everyone together one last time before we left.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

On Arriving

On arrival, life could easily run away with itself if you let it.  There is paperwork to be sorted, maybe a car, a house etc.  For the children moving abroad, they could easily get left to fend for themselves for a few days (understandably) while the grown ups deal with what is being thrown at them.  So, here are a few tips to help you during that immediate arrival period.  We were very lucky in that we hired a cottage (stuga) for 2 weeks before our lorry arrived.  It gave us (and especially myself who had packed up the house single handed while looking after 3 children) some breathing space to adjust a little first.

  1. With the arrival of the hugest lorry load ever of wordly possessions, that have taken 6 days to arrive, it is very easy to get caught up in the task of unpacking it all.  The grown ups, as well as the children, need a break from this.  Make sure there is designated time in the day set aside for connecting time with the children.  Whether this is a walk or a play outdoors (maybe exploring the new neighbourhood), or collapsing with a drink and a story together, it needs to be done.  The children need to feel they are remembered and not a hinderance in this extremely stressful time.
  2. Try and maintain some of your usual routines.  This will help make the children moving abroad feel a little more secure and less anxious.
  3. Talk, talk, talk.  Allow them input in the unpacking (especially their own areas).  I know it can be frustrating as we could do it in half the time, but they need to feel useful, and that they have had input into the move too.  Let them bring up what they are feeling when they need to.  They have a lot of emotions to work through, maybe mirroring a grieving process.
  4. Get out exploring!!  Make it exciting for the children.  Go and find new play parks together.  Go on walks or bike rides to discover what is in the area.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Settling Down Into Your New Life

It’s an ongoing process for a long time, helping settle children moving abroad into their new country, in our case Sweden.  Issues will crop up from time to time, and when you are least expecting them, and about something you would have never even thought would have been an issue.  It might be triggered by a telling off, which then brings something to the surface (that has ambushed me before).  When the children are tired, they can often pop out with something you hadn’t realised was a problem at all.  However, it is important to value them all.  I have a few little tips that have helped us along our journey so far.

  1. Get the children started in a Swedish school asap.  This will help with language and making friends, and ultimately settling them quicker.
  2. Find clubs/activities they enjoyed where you lived before in your new place, so they do not feel they have had to give up their lives/interests fully to move abroad.  This again helps with language and making friends as well.
  3. Allow for FaceTime to their friends and family back home.  This one takes a lot of parental commitment, especially with younger children, as firstly they need your device, secondly they need you to ensure it is set up and happens, and thirdly you need to find the time to do it with them.  But it is so worth it.  Our little lady has played games and performed magic tricks with her friends as if they were in the same room as her.  It has been a great thing to have.
  4. Play dates…set up play dates with their new friends and encourage them to invite people back.  This can be very daunting at first as your language skills need improving, but get the Google translate app and muddle through together…it is worth it I promise.
  5. Have lots of photos from your previous life printed and accessible to your children.  Then they can sit and peruse their memories, and again get talking about them.
  6. Continue to get out and explore your new area.  Go on adventures together and make it exciting for them.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

 

I hope these tips have been helpful and useful.  I have written a lot more about our move to Sweden throughout the blog in the category about exploring Sweden as well as one about living abroad in Sweden

Children moving abroad to Sweden, living abroad, sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Photograph: Sonia Cave

I have had a similar article published by the Newbieguide.se and it can be found by clicking on the following link  http://www.thenewbieguide.se/children-moving-abroad-sweden/   🙂

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