One of the characteristic features of the mentality of the vast majority of Spaniards is a reverent attitude towards children. Their upbringing is noticeably different from what is practiced in the territory of the post-Soviet space, and although in each family it is of a purely individual nature, a number of general patterns can be identified.
First of all, the decision to have a child is almost always a conscious one, and it is made after certain career successes have been achieved, the housing issue has been resolved to one degree or another, and a permanent partner has been found. The average age of women who took such a responsible step for the first time in their lives exceeds 31 years, which, along with Italy, is the highest figure in Europe. And if previously large families in Spain were not such a rarity, now there is a desire of the indigenous population to limit themselves to two children.
Responsibilities for caring for a newborn are often shared equally, as fathers are also given fully paid maternity leave. And they cope with their responsibilities without any problems, because many prepare for this “mission” in advance. In the future, you can send your child to a nursery/kindergarten, where he will be looked after and at the same time taught the first life skills from 4 months to 3 years.
Both public and private institutions of this kind (both are paid) are extremely popular – enrollment in them begins at least six months in advance, in the spring, and there is a shortage of available places almost everywhere. Private kindergartens offer various additional educational programs, including the study of foreign languages (primarily English), and not only meetings are organized for parents, but also courses where they receive recommendations on caring for and teaching their children.
The next “educational stage” is kindergarten, which in Spain is called “primary school” (escuela infantil), from 4 to 6 years. It can be compared to a “preparatory group”, where children are “socialized” while learning the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, music, drawing and learning about the world around them
It is also not mandatory, but few parents refuse this opportunity – especially since it is not customary here to shift responsibility to grandparents, who feel young even in retirement.
It is advisable that by the time of enrollment in secondary school (starting from the age of 6), the child has received all the vaccinations listed in the vaccination calendar – national and regional. Vaccinations in Spain – unlike secondary education – were not mandatory even before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the last word remains with the administration of the educational center, which can go into open conflict.
By that time, children are already ready for “integration into society,” although a certain element of “freedom” is inherent in them almost from the very beginning. Of course, Spanish parents do not encourage any kind of permissiveness, but at the same time they do not force their offspring to adhere to a strict daily routine at all costs, to walk the line and obey unquestioningly always and in everything.
In particular, they care little about when the child goes to bed, and a family walking with a stroller at midnight does not seem to be an exception to the rule. Well, children present at celebrations in the light of the moon and at the same time sleeping peacefully to music and noisy conversations do not cause the slightest surprise to anyone.
Another thing is surprising – with such a liberal attitude, children, with rare exceptions, do not behave unruly. Unreasonable hysteria in a public place is an extraordinary event, not to mention a demonstrative punishment in front of strangers. This may happen if other people’s or public interests are affected, but, as a rule, measures of influence are limited to a threatening shout followed by an “educational conversation,” and never with other people’s children.
However, this in no way means that cruelty and assault against children does not occur in nature. Another thing is that for this you can run into very big troubles, including deprivation of parental rights. This is only possible in court, but it should be borne in mind that the basis for extreme measures can be not only physical violence or psychological intimidation, but also, for example, systematically leaving small children alone at home without supervision. The attitude of neighbors also plays an important role, the most law-abiding of whom will not fail to “snitch” to the police or at least to the social security authorities.
According to current Spanish law, parents are responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority (18 years). At a minimum, they must take care of them by providing housing and food, and ensuring their right to secondary education. On the other hand, teenagers can leave school and go “free swimming” after finishing 10th grade, although in reality many sit on their parents’ necks almost until they graduate from university (a 30-year-old first-year student does not surprise anyone here).
By the way, in schools there is no “competition” between parents regarding whose child attends more clubs and sections or achieves success at Olympiads. There is usually no energy or time left for additional activities, among which the most common are various sports (football, tennis, martial arts), dancing and music. And in private schools, in addition, they are a very expensive – by average standards – pleasure: on average 20-25 euros per hour.