Does anyone have suggestions for supporting a child who is struggling adjusting to life in Spain?


Does anyone have any resources or suggestions for supporting a child who is struggling adjusting to life in Spain? My 8 year old child is so overwhelmed with our move to Spain. She hates school (we are looking at another for her), she is lashing out at us all the time and her sibling. Lots of yelling, door slamming, and a general lack of following directions or being willing to rationalize about anything.
I get what we have done is big and scary and I say this to her (and I have told her this), but her resistance and attitude is making me feel like I am raising a teenager.
If you have experience with resistant kids, what helped with your transition? Did it stay awful or get better??


These are the answers of some Facebook group members:

“I don’t have any advice but I’d say that knowing how long you’ve been here in Spain might help those with experience give advice. Sorry your kid is having a tough time and hope it improves soon. (Answer: We’ve been in Spain a month)”

“Not the same, but just want to say that my parents moved me across the country when i was 10 and i took it really hard. i was super miserable, had trouble making friends at my new school, and wanted to move back for a long time. but eventually i did adjust and i wouldn’t change anything now. i would just give it some time.”

“Maybe consider something that she is interested in—whether it’s sports, drama, horses, etc. Being in a new culture can be so new and unsettling. Maybe if she can find a friend or even let her zoom and connect with her friends back home … that can help her feel connected to something known. She may feel she has no control over anything… which depending on her personality can feel frustrated. Best of luck!”

“This is a very short amount of time. As a teacher, I have seen it take up to a year for many of my students. Be patient, and try to put yourself in your child’s position. She has been taken out of everything she has ever known, and put into a new culture with a different language. Culture shock is a real thing. Try to help her engage in activities and with making friends, but without over pressuring her.”

“You might also try some of these books which have advice for helping kids on this journey.
Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids: A Practical Guide to Preventive Care
Lessons Learned From a Family Who Moved to Spain’s Canary Islands

The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide to Living Abroad with Your Family”

“Enjoying school is very important at that age especially because that’s where she’s spending most of her day. Changing to a school with more supportive teachers or classmates could make a big difference.”

“I understand your child completely. I was one of those kids. Basically I remember I thought it completely unfair, and hated the world for that. It would have been quite helpful if someone sat down and listened to me haha even if I really wouldn’t have known how to say how I felt, I am sure my parents would have “discovered” all my mixed up feelings. So try to do this, listing good , not so good and bad not so bad etc, help your kid organize the explosion, it won’t make it instantly disappear but it will be relieving to have feelings organized, and also Knowing your feelings, talk about something similar that happened to you and how you dealt. You are a team, you need everyone to play together in this game of life. My trouble was, among other troubles, culture, people, but, I survived, but then again, it would have been better for all of us if somebody stopped blaming me of not cooperating, and just try to level with me. You can do it, 8 is way better than 12″

“Stick to it – give it one year. Spoil them in little ways you would never let happen back in home country. Personal growth is always painful!”

“Is there someone you could encourage them to talk to? Ideally a counsellor, or anyone from your circle of friends and family who is a good listener. Often it’s impossible for kids to talk calmly and openly to their parents. They feel conflicted from the outset and lose their temper.
Our 7-year-old son had classic stress symptoms (rocking etc) when we moved him from the UK to the Netherlands and enrolled him in the French school (so overnight he had two languages to learn!). But we made sure we found many interesting things to do to fill his free time and his thoughts, rather than having time to mope at home about what he’d lost. One move was to enrol him in a local swimming club, as he was a great swimmer. He was soon nattering away in 3 languages and found some good French and Dutch friends. We moved to France 3 years later, and again it was difficult but we got over it. Now 35, with his own business in France, he often says how grateful he is that he grew up in 3 countries/cultures. He knows it made him a lot more open and aware, and that helps him in life now.”

“I’d say have her talk to a therapist.
I haven’t been in a situation like this; but after finally going to therapy as an adult I see how beneficial it would have been if my parents took me as a kid.”

“A small thing that might help: watch the movie / book Inside Out. It’s helpful for grown-ups and kids to remember give names to our feelings and recognize that sad feelings are okay, and they’re often present with the other feelings.”

“It happened to my son, 22 years ago when I arrived here. I sat him down and asked him to explain to me why he was so miserable here. He was 14. I listened to him and accepted his proposition to not continue living here. His reasons were completely valid, and I sent him back to Canada. He’s been very happy since. I wish I had followed him, because he was right about every single thing he said.
Lots of pop psychology here. You should seek professional help if needed down the line. But one month is nothing.”

“I found this very difficult when this happened to me at 12. It was impossible to readjust , I had high rates of truancy and I ended up going a bit off the rails at 15 when grades started to really matter
The only thing I would have done differently is get a therapist – and a good one, independent one. Try two or three. My school therapist was trash and didn’t help at all.
I’m convinced the move affected my schooling to such a degree I’d have a totally different career by now if we hadn’t moved or handled things how we did so pleaseeee try therapy and asap for at least 12 sessions
Edit; this was a move to the UK from SA , not comparable to Spain. I’m thrilled with Spain. But as soon as I could I left the UK as it was just wrong for me always and there may be a time when you have to assess if Spain is right for your child. As they are young I have no doubt this will be a phase and in 1-2 years their life will be better than ever! But my parents left it too late for me to seek therapy as they arent that sort of family and just left my school deal with it and looked at me like I was a “difficult child” so pls get s professional to help them through this transition :)))”

“I moved my son to Utah from California at that age. It permanently changed our relationship. He started smoking pot heavily with a new friend, and I think it damaged his emotional development. He doesn’t communicate with me. He’s 26 now and we’re on good terms, but he shows no affection or empathy. His girlfriend is the same. They’re cold to me. It’s the reason I moved to Spain.”

“I was in that same boat 5 years ago. My daughter was 10 and acted in the same way you are describing yours. She probably misses her grandma or granddad ( or a close family member) like our daughter did. Just ask her and find out. We got her a cat and that solved a little. You also must have a lot of patience.”

“We are in the same situation. Our 12 year old is really upset. He wouldn’t get out of bed this morning. There were lots of tears. My wife drove him instead of him catching the school bus. He took last Monday off school but did homework all day. The tutor came this afternoon and both kids participated and did quite well. I was surprised they know so much Spanish as they don’t let on about it. Our other son is 10. I figured he would have more trouble as our 12 year old is way more outgoing and social.
Both kids don’t want to live in Spain. They have been telling us this for a year. Living in Spain is my dream and my wife’s dream. We are 4 months in. I figure it’s just a rough patch. Life is actually really good here. These kids have everything they need. We had a great four day weekend. But the reality of going back to school sucks for them. I think the most important thing is to listen to what they have to say. We did that way back before we left California. We sat down and talked about it. They were saying they didn’t want to move but we wanted to know the root cause. They were worried about missing friends. We make sure they get plenty of online game time with friends, which is social time. Ignore the gaming aspect or screen time. It’s how some kids interact.
Right now we are renegotiating screen time. It can be like currency. If they get up on time they get more screen time, etc. A friend has a whole system like this and it seems to work.
We are going to be back in the US for two weeks around Christmas so maybe that will help them reset. And we are already planning to go back for 4 weeks in the summer including a week at an expensive summer camp the older kid has wanted for years.
Both kids asked if we can not come back to Spain after Christmas break and again after summer break. But that’s not what we are going to do. We are committed to at least 2 years in Spain. I remind them that this situation is temporary and that we aren’t staying forever.
Both kids resist going to the beach but once we are there they don’t want to leave. I’m hoping that happens here eventually.
All of the parents we have spoken to about this said it gets better. Just have to get through some rough times. Keep the lines of communication open. Hear what they have to say and give them what they want in the right way.”

Additional information, moving to Spain with a teenager…/advice-about-moving-to-spain…/