Helping kids adjust to Germany

Helping kids adjust to Germany ()

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 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.

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 up for after school activities.

  • Contact a School Liaison Officer (SLO) to request youth sponsors.


  • 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, 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. 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 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.


  • Military 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 — 12 free sessions for individual, couple, family or group settings.

CHILD EDUCATION A variety of school 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. When in doubt, reach out to the School Liaison Office to discuss options.

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

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.

  • Multiple school breaks are throughout the school year. Start and end dates for school breaks rotate each year; ensure you have the correct dates marked in your calendar.

  • Hiring a tutor for extra transition support is highly recommended.

DODEA EUROPE DoDEA schools accept enrollments throughout the year to accommodate military families. Enrollment requirements:

The SLO is an invaluable resource during transition; visit installations.militaryone (search for School Liaison Office) and

Documentation needed to enroll:

  • PCS orders

  • Student’s birth certificate or passport

  • Previous school records and physical address

  • Updated immunization records

  • Copy of 504 plan or Individual Education Plan (IEP) forms, if applicable

  • Proof of residence or TLA/TLF

  • Parent ID/Passport

HOME SCHOOLING 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 DoDEAEurope. Contact your SLO for more information and to connect with home school groups.

CHILD CARE Your installation’s offerings may vary, butmmany programs are available through Force Support Squadrons (FSS) or Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) services. Contact your local facilities to enroll. Note that waitlists are likely and understanding your priority level is important to obtain care.

Visit to get on the waitlist as soon as possible.

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

  • School-Age Programs (SAP), Youth Programs, Teen Programs – 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 easy, especially when placed in a new environment. Many on-installation and private resources are available for you, such as the MFRC, ACS or spouses’ clubs. Also, look for community websites and social media resources to find support and friendship.

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