A large part of our motivation for moving abroad was our children, and giving them what we felt was a better lifestyle than we could in the UK. Not better in terms of more things or money, but in terms of quality. However, it is important to remember that this blog post is based on our (so far) two year experience of raising children in Sweden, and it might not be the same for everyone. If you are thinking of moving abroad with your children, I hope this article can help you learn some new things and also plan for your new life in Sweden.
The Pros Of Raising Children In Sweden:
- The slower pace of life: The pace of life here is generally slower and this is so beneficial for children. This is for multiple reasons which I have gone into in other blog posts about us living here.
- The children have an increased sense of freedom and independence: I am aware we live in a small island community, but we do regularly head into our nearest big town as well, and have friends living there. The children are able to wander around their communities independently at a lot younger age. They can come and go from their friends’ homes without needing official “play dates” being set in advance and the need for drop off, pick up arrangements. Due to a lot less traffic it is safer for them to be out and about on their bikes too, making getting around a lot easier for them. Having moved from the UK where we felt almost on constant watch for our children, especially in the vicinity of schools, having letters sent home about people lurking round school gates, having schools gated and locked during the day so no one can get in etc, raising children in Sweden on this front has taken some getting used to as a parent, and letting go a lot earlier and quicker on some things.
- Less parental judgement: If you are out and your child is acting up, this is just seen as totally normal and expected…they are children! If you let them climb a tree or are not standing over them while they climb on a climbing frame, but just letting them get on with it, that is totally fine too. You are not constantly judged for your actions or their behaviour.
- You get paid by the government to be at home with your sick child, or if they need popping to the doctor! It is called VAB (vård av barn/care of children) and it is fantastic. Gone are the days of feeling you are letting your employer down, or scornful looks/comments from other colleagues about being off with a sick child. It is totally expected if you have children that this will happen, and everyone with children takes the time off to look after their sick child…it is the norm.
- Parental leave is amazing! When I had our first little lady I had 6 months’ government paid leave 🙁 When I had our double trouble I had 9 months. Dadda had 2 weeks off, unpaid, both times. Not only do you get a large chunk of leave (480 days, and some of these can be swapped between either parent), you can take them at any time up until the child is 8 years old. Raising children in Sweden is acknowledged to be an important job and one that takes family time.
- The child’s opinion really matters: The children are a lot more central to what happens in their lives here. For instance, take a routine parent/teacher meeting. First of all, the child is also present. Secondly they run the show as much as their teacher. They have prepared in advance so they can chat about what they feel goes well, or not so well, and then it is discussed with the teacher and parent too. In the classroom, they are encouraged to be vocal and share their opinions. If a child is spoken to by an adult, the child’s opinion is treated with the same gravity as another adult’s would be, and not dismissed or overlooked just because they are a child.
The Cons Of Raising Children In Sweden:
You will see from the points I have managed to come up with, in an attempt at giving a balanced view, that I have really struggled!!
- It takes forever to get everyone dressed to go outside for 6 months of the year! We have three children and it can take us 15 minutes to get everyone dressed in all their winter clobber and out the door! Life is definitely a lot slower then!
- Darkness: The children have had to adapt to this as well as us, and we are in the south where it is not so bad. However, it can affect their mood and outlook on life as much as ours. They have all now got used to the fact they play a lot outdoors in the dark during the winter months and it seems more normal now, but it is something they needed to adapt to.
- Raising children in Sweden can be lonely sometimes, until you have made friends or learnt where others go to meet up in your community. It is not as easy as meeting and making mummy friends in the school playground while you wait for your children to come out of school (I have some lovely mummy friends in the UK I made in just this way). There are no gaggles of parents at a set time of day, as firstly everyone finishes at different times, secondly a lot of them head home without a parental chaperone, and thirdly they come and go from fritids (the equivalent of after school care) at varying times from midday until late afternoon.
I hope this article has given you a little insight into what raising children in Sweden is like. It is not meant to be about the specifics of such things as schooling, costs of living, the emotional upheaval for the children, tips for arriving in Sweden with your family, or things we have learnt living here. Those can all be read about by clicking on the links. It is just some information on general points about raising children in Sweden. I hope you have enjoyed, and if you have anything else to add, please feel free to drop it into the comments section below, whether you are a native or an expat 🙂