Adjusting your kids to Germany

by Stripes Europe
Stripes Europe

Moving to Germany is a big change for the entire family. Children certainly feel this impact as they leave behind familiar schedules, classrooms, friends and neighborhoods. Here are ways to make the transition as smooth as possible for your kiddos.

ESTABLISH ROUTINES

The importance of routines in child develop­ment should not be understated. Establishing routines will help children handle the addi­tional emotional and environmental changes as you get settled.

  • Set sleeping schedules right away.
  • Rehearse school or day care routines.
  • If possible, take your children to their day care or school to meet caregivers or teachers in advance.
  • Make sure your routine includes time for your children’s favorite activities.

INVOLVE YOUR KIDS

Include your children throughout the transi­tion. Even for toddlers, give them tasks and roles to instill a sense of responsibility and increase self-confidence.

  • Let them help unpack and give them freedom to organize their living space.
  • Schedule social time with classmates and new neighbors.
  • Sign your children up for after school activities.
  • Contact a School Liaison Officer (SLO) to request youth sponsors.

EXPLORE GERMANY

  • Maintain an enthusiastic outlook about your arrival in Germany, even if you are having doubts. Your children will look to you a great deal during this transition. If you’re upset, they will be too.
  • Eat meals on the economy, attend local fests and learn about German traditions. Address the differences between life in Germany versus back home but move conversations in a positive direction. Your children will gain an appreciation for diversity while exploring.
  • Enroll your children in German lessons or enroll them in German schools or day care.
  • Explore the best of Europe by letting your children assist in trip planning, researching and selecting sites or activities they would enjoy. Take photos and work together to create scrapbooks, photo albums, calendars, collages and other creative projects.

REMAIN IN TOUCH WITH LIFE BACK HOME

While adjusting to everything new, don’t forget about life back home. Set regular video chat or phone call dates with family and friends. If your children are allowed online, encourage them to utilize social media and email to stay in touch with friends or have them send postcards from the destinations they visit. Continue the tradi­tions that are important in your family, while creating new ones during your time in Germany.

EXPECT AN ADJUSTMENT PERIOD

Give your children time to process all of the changes, both good and bad, that come with their new environment. Be aware of expat child syndrome, a psychological condition that typi­cally occurs in children ages 10 to 15 and can lead to isolative or unruly behavior.

Resources

  • Family Life Counselors (MFLCs) - Free non-medical sessions with child behavioral specialists are anonymous and may occur in individual, couple, family or group settings.
  • School Liaison Officer (SLO)
  • Adolescent Support and Counseling Services (ASACS)
  • Military OneSource - Twelve free sessions may occur in individual, couple, family or group settings.

EDUCATION

A variety of school options are available to you to include DODEA, German schooling and homeschooling. Consult with your installation’s School Liaison Officer (SLO) on what would be the best option for your children.

 

DODEA EUROPE

DODEA schools typically accept enrollments throughout the year to accommodate military families.

Enrollment requirements:

Documentation needed:

  • PCS orders
  • Age verification (PCS orders, birth certificate or passport)
  • Child’s transcripts
  • Immunization records

German schooling

If you are considering the option of sending your child to a German school contact your SLO for frequently asked questions and information that will help you make a decision as there are many things to consider. Germany schools typically have waitlists; so don’t delay the plan­ning process if you want to enroll your child.
 

Key differences:

  • American holidays are not granted off.
  • You can be fined if you take your children out of school for holidays unless discussed in advance.
  • School year starts mid August and ends beginning of July.

Homeschooling

Home schooling is a legal option open to all SOFA sponsored active-duty military, DOD civilians and contractors. Your children may be eligible for auxiliary services offered by DODEA-Europe. Contact your SLO for more information and to connect with homeschool groups.

CHILD CARE

Your installation’s offerings may vary, but many programs are available through force support squadrons or Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) services. Contact your local facilities to enroll. Note that waitlists are probable, so get started early!

  • Child Development Center (CDC) – These centers offer weekday childcare for children ages six weeks to five years or pre-school.
  • School-Age Programs (SAP), Youth Programs, Teen Programs – Offered for children in kinder­garten through high school, these programs focus on a variety of enrichment activities. Some programs have before- and after-school care, as well as activities on holidays and during summer break.
  • Family Child Care (FCC) – Providers are certified and regulated by the DOD to care for children in their homes. Some offer extended hours. For more on available programs, contact the CYS registration office.
  • Check with your installation for specific registration information.

PARENT SUPPORT

Being a parent isn’t always easy, especially when placed in a new environment. Many on-installa­tion and private resources are available for you, such as the A&FRC, ACS or spouses’ clubs. Also, look for community websites and social media resources to find support and friendship.

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