Adjusting your kids to Italy

Woman and child taking a photo in antique theatre using a selfie stick.
Woman and child taking a photo in antique theatre using a selfie stick.

Adjusting your kids to Italy

by Stripes Europe Staff
Stripes Europe

Moving to Italy 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. 


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 sleep 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.


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 up for after school activities.
  • Contact a School Liaison Officer (SLO) to request youth sponsors.


  • Maintain an enthusiastic outlook about your arrival in Italy, 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 Italian traditions. Address the differences                     between life in Italy versus back home, but move conversations in a positive direction. Your children will gain an appreciation for diversity while exploring.
  • Enroll your children in Italian lessons, 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.


While adjusting to everything new, don’t forget about life back home. Video chat or call family and friends. If your children are allowed online, encourage them to use 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 Italy.


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.


  • 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 for individual, couple, family or group settings.


A variety of school and child care options are available to you, but keep in mind that many programs have waitlists, so don’t delay the planning process! Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Europe schools typically accept enrollments throughout the year to accommodate military families. Consult with the SLO on what would be the best option for your children.


While stationed in Italy, you have the choice to have your children attend Italian schools. It’s strongly recommended to discuss this option thoroughly with your installation’s SLO before applying.

Here are the basics:

  • You need a local address to apply.
  • They don’t grant all American holidays off.
  • The school year is divided into two terms “quadrimestri”
    • Autumn - Sept. to mid-Jan.
    • Spring - Mid-Jan. to early June.

Italian education stages

  • Kindergarten “scuola dell’infanzia“ – For ages three to six.
  • Primary school or elementary school “scuola primaria“ or “scuola elementare“ - For ages six to eleven.
  • Lower secondary school “scuola secondaria
    • di primo grado“ or “scuola media“ - Middle school for ages 11 to 14.
  • Upper secondary school “scuola seconaria di secondo grado“ or “scuola superiore“ - High school for ages 14 to 19.
  • “Liceo“ - For theoretical studies, such as humanities, science or art.
  • “Istituto tecnico“ - For a combined theoretical and technical education in areas, such as economy, humanities, administration, law, technology or tourism.
  • “Istituto professionale“ - Vocational school for specific trades, crafts and careers.


DoDEA schools accept enrollments throughout the year to accommodate military families.

Enrollment requirements:

School Liaison Officer (SLO): invaluable resource during transition

Documentation needed:

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


Homeschooling 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.


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 likely, so get started early!

  • Child Development Center (CDC) – These centers offer weekday child care for children ages 6-weeks to 5-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.


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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