As the long school holidays creep closer I am sure there are many mothers out there who are getting all misty-eyed and fuzzy at the though of twelve uninterrupted weeks with their little darlings. I am not one of them.
Much as I love them, I have to admit that the thought of three solid months in the company of my kids makes me feel faint. I work for home but know very well there will not be much work done if I am to spend the whole summer refereeing their daily squabbles.
Thank heavens for Gaga and Bampa. I am lucky to have them nearby and they help me out a lot but even the most devoted of grandparents has the occasional urge to run screaming from their grandchildren pulling what is left of their hair out and jabbering in frustration.
So, I have nothing but praise for the Arona ayuntamiento which every year organises a bunch of activities to occupy the kids through the long, hot summer. Usually these activities are heavily subsidised and are either free or offer really good value for money.
Swimming Courses – €25
Kids: 4 to 16 years old
Held in the municipal swimming pool of Los Cristianos in the Jesús Dominguez “Grillo” Sports Centre and open to both resident and non resident kids, these swimming classes run for set times through the months of July, August and September.
Babies: 1 to 3 years old
These classes are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There are four sessions of 45 minutes each in July and August and two sessions a day in September.
Both the swimming courses, those for babies and those for kids up to 16 cost €25.
Call 010 and ask for the Ayuntamiento of Arona or 922761600 for more information and to enrol your child.
Tennis Course – €20 per month
Kids: 6 to 17 years old
Held in the tennis courts of the Jesús Dominguez “Grillo” Sports Centre in Los Cristianos, the tennis courses are held on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays according to the child’s age and ability.
Enrollment for this course opens on the 15th of June and preference will be given to those who are enrolling in tennis courses for the first time. Ask at the office of the sports centre for more information.
The tennis course runs from 1st July till the end of August and costs €20 per month.
There are a number of mini-courses on offer which are a great way to see if your kid is really interested in an activity before you go the whole hog, enrol him into a club and buy a mountain of associated kit. This year you can pick from sailing, windsurfing and canoeing. These classes are kept small. There are only 4 kids per group in the windsurfing course, 6 in the sailing class and 8 in the canoeing course. While this means you can be sure someone has an eye on your beloved it also means you need to get his or her name down pronto.
In order to get your child enrolled call 010 from 17th of June and ask for ‘informacion del Complejo Deportivo de Los Cristianos’.
Free Kids Summer Activities
Free activities include mixed sports and games in Las Galletas, Cabo Blanco, Valle San Lorenzo, El Fraile, Arona, La Camella, Las Rosas and Guaza. These are for kids between the ages of 6 and 14, last two hours per day, Monday to Friday and are held in each town’s sports centre or pavillion.
There are beach games and beach volleyball on the Playa de Los Cristianos every Monday to Friday from 10.00 to 12.00 through July and August and free golf courses for kids between the ages of 8 to 16 at the Campo de Golf Las Americas in July and August.
The Karting Club in Parque de La Reina have 40 free places for kids between the ages of 6 to 11 for a free initiation class on the theory and practical aspects of whizzing round the kart track.
Arona Ayuntamiento also organises summer activities for young adults, adults, seniors and both kids and adults with disabilities. You can take a look at Arona Online for more information (although quite honestly, good luck with that).
Raising Expat Kids in Spain
When preparing to move to Spain there are always a number of concerns to address. One of the first of course will be where are you going to live, what is the property like and what do you need to know about buying property in Spain.
Thanks to a growing number of professional estate agents websites and property blogs many of which include Property Buyers Guides and valuable advice many of these practical concerns can be laid to rest before you even leave home. Browse through extensive property listings, take advantage of all the information available online and you will gain both a clearer idea of possible costs involved you will also be better prepared to handle the buying process itself when the times comes.
Typically in families with small children the worry and stress of moving abroad centres more around the effect that such a move will have on the little ones. How will they cope, will they fit in, what are the standards of education, is the move fair on them?
Happily most research shows that there are considerable long-term benefits to moving your child abroad at an early age. More than just becoming bilingual, living abroad can increase both the intelligence and social capacity of the child.
Education in Spain
Spain has an excellent and very affordable system of education. Despite their laid back attitude, they take things seriously when it comes a child’s education. There are three options you can choose from: state schooling, private schooling and international language schools. At the moment, there are 75 universities, 56 state-run and 19 private universities run by private enterprises or by the Catholic Church.
The decision of into which school system you enter your children is an important one. If you want your child to follow your home country’s r curriculum you will have to select and enrol your child into a private international school.
The state school curriculum is taught entirely in Spanish. From pre-school which commences in the child’s third year your baby will be thrown in at the deep end and be expected to swim fairly quickly. You can soften the blow by entering your child in a Spanish-speaking ‘guarderia’ for a few hours a day prior to the start of their schooling. As dramatic as it sounds, your child will adapt and you will be astonished at how quickly they settle in.
Your Child’s Adaptation
The younger they are the easier is it for children to adapt to new environments and pick up a new language, which in some cases happens remarkably fast, especially compared to an adult’s learning curve. Some kids will adapt straight away, while for others it might take more time. The first few weeks are always the hardest. Again you can make it a little easier on your child by arriving in Spain at the sart of the long summer holidays and getting him or her involved in local activities where they will have the possibility to interact with Spanish kids and pick up some of the language. Some Spanish lessons before leaving your home country would help too. There are a number of Spanish courses designed for kids available on the internet many based on songs and games which make learning the language non-threatening and fun.
Before the age of 4 a small child’s brain is at its highest learning capacity. They soak up information like a giant sponge and will generally pick up a new language very quickly while Mum and Dad struggle to absorb the lingo.
The best age to move the kids abroad is either before the age of two or between the ages of six and eight because between the ages of three and six, they often get homesick and after the age of eight, it’s a lot harder for them to learn the new language.
In 2004, research done by University College London revealed that children who had learnt a second language had “a significantly higher proportion of grey matter (the area of the brain which processes information) than those who had not”.
Exposure to new people, lifestyles, languages, traditions, cultures, humour, music and traditions gives a child a better understanding of the world. It also makes them more compassionate towards people of different ethnic groups and overall makes them more resilient.
Setting a good example is all-important. When children see you making the effort they’ll be more willing to learn, both at home and in school. It’s also great fun conversing with the kids in a strange new language. Just don’t be put off if theirs is a lot better than yours – it’s natural! Before too long you might find your little nipper translating for you in shops.
For you, learning the language (even just basic conversation) will make the whole adaptation process infinitely easier and your life in Spain that much more enjoyable. Without the few basic words, you’ll find getting things done tedious. The fact that you might still always be surrounded by English speakers is never enough of an excuse. Without Spanish, you’ll miss out on a wealth of cultural diversity and will ultimately always feel like an outsider – an expat living in a foreign land – never properly integrated.
Learning Spanish is important for practical reasons too. Government offices expect you to speak Spanish or bring an interpreter.
Also, if you have basic Spanish, you’ll still be able to have some kind of an idea what to say to the kids when they have problems with their homework. The best way to learn is to do it the way you learned English when you were a child; just keep speaking it. Lessons are of course useful, but you’ll probably learn more from “Pepe” in the local bar or from “Mari Luz”, the Spanish yoga teacher. It’s never to late to learn. And you’ll learn faster in a fun environment. It goes without saying that if you’re a single parent; the fastest way to learn is to find a Spanish girl or boyfriend. At first it can be very frustrating. But ultimately, learning a new language can be a very rewarding experience.
Quality of life
With a fantastic climate, beautiful beaches and an incredibly diverse landscape, it’s no wonder Spaniards spend so much of their leisure time outdoors. Moving to a warmer, more relaxed, brighter, more outdoors focused environment might just be the best gift you could ever give the kids.
There is something in the water in the UK. There has to be. There is just no other explanation for the level of barking madness that is going on there at the moment. I’m so glad that they seem to have a handle on the current stabbing crisis. Yes, the answer it would appear is to rip out the racists and malcontents at the very roots.
Woe betide any three year old hoodie planning to create mayhem at Mothercare. And as for you racist troublemakers huddling round the potty plotting to set about young Ahmed, we’ve got your number.
With the nursery nurses feverishly scribbling down any evidence of racist behaviour, including showing dislike for foreign or unfamiliar food, they’ll soon figure out which of those little rugrats is turning up their nose at Mai Ling’s Char Siu Bau. All is in good hands and we can sleep much safer in our beds.
Its just as well they don’t bring in the same kind of rules to Tenerife. My two would sneer at their grandmother’s Batanjaan Zalud which would no doubt be proof positive of their racism against North Africans while a good plate of Haggis and Neeps would uncover a deep seated suspicion for anything Scottish.
With the greatest of respect to the raving nutters who dreamt up this latest scheme I’d like to comment that my two kids go to state school in Tenerife. Although you can choose to pay to send your child to an English speaking school, state school is taught in Spanish – no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Both my kids do well – on par with their classmates. They are not suffering by being taught in a second language and their fluency in Spanish means they are totally integrated and feel as much a part of the community as the local Tinerfeño kids.
That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be horrified if I offered them a plate of Sopa de Pescado Tinerfeña
I was only supposed to be visiting for a few months so the thought of having a baby in Tenerife was the furthest thing from my mind. My partner and I had been living in Thailand and and much as we loved it, we both felt it was time for a change. I’ve never been afraid to up sticks and move on. My parents had made the move to Tenerife the previous year and so mi marido and I agreed that it would be nice to chill out with them on Tenerife for a few months.
Pregnancy (Photo credit: jess.g.)
Well life has that funny habit of throwing a spanner in the works. Much to my surprise, at the ripe old age of 37, I discovered that I had fallen pregnant. I had long ago given up hope of ever hearing the patter of tiny feet and my first reaction was one of shocked disbelief. His reaction was more straightforward – he was just shocked. “How did that happen?” he said. Duh!
Anyway we were faced with the choice of moving to his native France or staying on in Tenerife to have the baby. A girl needs her Mum at times like that no matter how long in the tooth she may be. No contest – we stayed in Tenerife.
In my usual woolly-headed way, I had no idea when it might be that I had actually conceived. I had lost a baby years before and after that, despite trying to fall pregnant, it had never happened again. I presumed the doctors were right – I was just not meant to be a Mum so I stopped paying much attention to my periods and just got on with my life.
I visited a local GP, fondly known as Dr. Jab. He advised I go to the Clinca Verde in Los Cristianos for tests. Unfortunately when I got there I was told they couldn’t do the tests without knowing the approximate age of the fetus. I was sent away again to do a urine test at a clinic in my local chemist. This established that I was about ten weeks gone.
After that my pregnancy was plain sailing except for my own nerves. Having come to terms with being barren, suddenly having a growing baby in my belly scared the life out of me. The only people that even knew were my partner and my parents until my bump and boobs grew to ridiculous proportions and I could hide the fact no longer. Even then I hated to talk about my pregnancy in case doing so somehow jinxed me and I would lose this one too.
Pregnancy Check Ups
Though I could have had regular check-ups paid for by the state by hauling my pregnant belly on a bus to Mahon every six weeks, I chose instead to pay for the check-ups privately and instead hauled my increasing girth to the Green Clinic in Los Cristianos. My Spanish was non-existent at that time and the charming Dr. Hidalgo’s English was fractured but he also spoke French and between us we managed quite well. A hospital translator, a lovely motherly English lady, was on hand too.
As an older mum-to-be I was offered an amniocentesis. I had to go to Candelaria Hospital in Santa Cruz for that and I’d have to say that was the low point of the whole pregnancy. However well organised that facility might be for locals, it is a confusing maze if you enter the wrong building as a foreigner and then try and find your way back to the labs. The day being hot and sticky didn’t help and when we finally found the right place, we saw that we were to knock on a door and then join a queue – don’t ask me what the door knocking was all about because it didn’t seem to cause any reaction. Maybe one nurse inside was tasked with counting the knocks so they knew how many people were waiting.
We seemed to be standing for a very long time in that airless corridor. Buggerlugs went off in search of a coffee machine and for a sly cigarette. I leaned against the wall feeling more and more woozy. The next thing I remember, some strange woman was holding my legs up in the air and babbling at me in a strange language. Very weird. It was a hell of a relief when I finally came to and realised where I was, not to mention a great embarrassment as I had taken to wearing his old boxers for comfort by that time and I stopped shaving my legs when I could no longer see my feet.
The nurses were great but the doctor who put that long needle in my belly was a frosty faced bit of work. Her face didn’t crack a smile once but given the hoard of waiting patients we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was probably just worked off her feet.
As an older mother, I was advised to have the amnio – though it wasn’t a medical necessity. Nevertheless as a born worrier, the amnio was a necessity for me. The tests get send to the mainland for analysis and it takes about a week to get the results. That was the longest week of my life. Thankfully, the results showed that I was carrying a healthy baby girl.
As my time grew nearer I became obsessed with what exactly to expect. Dr. H suggested I ask the translator to take me round the maternity ward. The day I had my tour the ward was especially tranquil. No mothers-to-be were writhing in dramatic agony, no fathers were pacing up and down outside in an anxious dither. I was also taken into the nursery and shown what would happen to my baby when she finally arrived. Just after the birth she would be taken away, cleaned and placed under hot lights for three hours. After seeing what to expect I left feeling just as nervous but far less apprehensive.
I visited the gynae every six weeks throughout my pregnancy. I’d stare at the screen in stupefaction as Dr. H wittered on about arms and legs and my baby’s beating heart. It was only on the very last scan that I could make something out of the grey mince on the screen – a beautiful profile of my baby’s face.
Towards the end of the pregnancy my visits included a sonic scan. It is an incredible feeling to hear the whoosh of blood and your baby’s heartbeat. Once, when my Mum had come along, the lovely Marierose offered us both a coffee. I hadn’t had coffee for months at this point but thought well, if the nurse is offering it, it must be okay. On the same occasion my mother and I got a terrible fit of the giggles. No doubt the coffee helped but hearing the monitor go ballistic every time we shared a joke had us both in hysterics.
My mother was most impressed with the treatment I received prior to the birth of my daughter. They didn’t have such sophisticated monitoring equipment in her day and she found the whole thing quite fascinating. Seeing the moving shadow of her grand-daughter on the monitor was a wonderful experience for her and she has commented that the level of care far exceeds what one would expect in the UK.
After the initial shock of being pregnant and a few minor bouts of morning sickness I had an easy pregnancy although I was two weeks overdue and about the size of a semi-detached by the time the baby arrived. Although I carried my baby through the heat of the summer and finally delivered in late August, I am happy to have been pregnant here in Tenerife. If you are yourself expecting the patter of tiny feet, don’t think you must go back to your home country to receive top class medical care.
The labour and birth … well …suffice to say you do not get pain relief in Tenerife. The nurses in attendance did not speak English, but did make themselves perfectly well understood. It is kind of hard to misconstrue someone thrusting their hand up your bits to see how far you have dilated.
My only complaint about the birth was that my partner was not able to join me. Hania, after digging in for two extra weeks, decided to arrive at the speed of knots with the cord round her neck. One episiotomy and set of forceps later and my first baby was delivered. The first my partner knew of her arrival was when Hania was placed in his arms by the maternity nurse complete with a little pointed alien head from the forceps. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see his face as there is no way his Spanish would have been good enough at that time to understand the reason for her unusual appearance.
While pregnant, I would have loved to have found a page like this which told me what to expect here in Tenerife. If you would like to share your pregnancy or childbirth experiences here on the island, then please send an email.