UK vs. Sweden: An English parent's take on raising kids

Nicola Foleher says that her children have far better lives in Sweden than they ever did in the UK.

It's a win for kids living in Sweden!

It's a win for kids living in Sweden!

Foto: Mathias Bergeld

Engelska2023-12-11 09:00

Without a doubt, I have to say that life in Sweden for my children is far superior to life in the UK.

Many things remain the same for them. Much to their disappointment, they still have to attend school, they still have to tidy their bedrooms, and they still resist the idea of wearing a ‘big’ coat, even in the depths of the Nordic winter; but on the whole they have gained a way of life that is enriching them as young people.

In my opinion, the education system in the UK is both old-fashioned and incredibly formal. We left because we didn't want our children to endure the high-pressure, mentally and emotionally taxing periods of testing and exams in UK schools.

Children are expected to take around 25 exams covering 9 subjects over a four-week period.

The UK puts a lot of pressure on young people during exams, which can harm their mental health. This situation doesn't seem to be changing. My daughters will take exams here in 3 core subjects, far fewer than would be expected of them had we stayed in the UK.

My daughters feel more free to express themselves here. My oldest loves to dye her hair, wear different clothes and jewelry, and be artistic, which she couldn't do in the UK.

Schools there have strict uniform rules, from hair accessories to tights' thickness, skirt, and blazer embroidery, and tie color. 

There's no room for individuality, and while uniforms are often claimed to reduce bullying, bullies will always find reasons to pick on others no matter what they wear. There is always the ‘right’ kind of school shoe or school bag and the ‘wrong’ kind that would give a bully all the reason they need to choose their next victim.

Perhaps because children here in Sweden have always been allowed to dress for school as they see fit, they do not feel the need to put others down for their choices. People here are encouraged to be themselves, as long as they're respectful and follow important rules like being a decent human being.

In Sweden, children's opinions matter. They are the focus of their meetings with doctors, dentists, and school principals and teachers. The conversation is directed at them, and parents are there too, but only to participate when asked. In the UK, it's usually the opposite. Adults talk about what's best for the child, and kids watch on, and that's if they're even allowed to be present at such meetings.

I can’t help but think that Sweden's approach to kids will help make our children grow into well-rounded, inclusive and tolerant adults.

Also read: Nicola Foleher: I didn’t expect a land of such extremes

This is a column and the views are the author's own.