Ever wonder about parenthood in Germany and what it is like from an expat’s perspective? If you’re an expat parent considering a move to Germany or if you have recently arrived, we are here to provide you with valuable information and insights to help you navigate the journey smoothly. From understanding financial support like Kindergeld to embracing cultural norms in parenting, we’ve got you covered. Today, I will share my own experiences as a mother coming from the States.
How safe is Germany for kids?
When we lived in the States, I was always worried about gun violence, kidnapping, and sexual predators. The truth is – there is no place in the world that is free from these terrible things children should never have to experience. What I can say is after living in Germany for 2 years, I feel very comfortable with how safe it is here for my son.
Germany has a low crime rate compared to many other countries. One thing I love is how public spaces, such as parks and playgrounds, are well-maintained and designed with children’s safety in mind.
German cities and towns often have pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, making it safer for children to walk or commute independently. The children are even taught about how to be responsible pedestrians in school where they have to take a test to get a pedestrian license often in the first Klasse (grade).
Germans generally prioritize self-reliance, responsibility, and self-discipline for their children. When I first moved here, I was taken back countless times by how many children I saw walking alone to school, riding their bikes around town with friends, or even shopping at the grocery store without an adult! I would constantly find myself looking around for their parent!
It took me a while to adjust to the idea of my son not having to be with me at all times, but over time and in small steps – I gained more experiences that helped me see he would be safe on his own if he walked to his friend’s house to play for the afternoon. Of course, we still educated our son about personal safety and take necessary precautions, such as teaching him about stranger danger and what to do when he is in a situation where he doesn’t feel safe.
Even though my son has a lot more freedom to navigate the world more independently, we still use a GPS watch so he can call us and I can see where he is on an app from home. We opted for this over a cellphone. It has been very helpful countless times when he needed to get ahold of us while he was out and about. He also loves that he can record videos and take photos with it. We just put it in school mode when he’s at school so it is not a distraction.
What benefits does Germany offer for families with children?
Germany is known for its family-friendly policies and strong support systems for parents. There is a strong emphasis on ensuring the well-being and development of families. Because of this, Germany offers various services and benefits to help parents balance work and family life effectively. So let’s dive into what you can look forward to!
Kindergeld (child benefit)
When you move here, you should enroll in Kindergeld with your local Family Benefits Office (Familienkasse) as soon you have your residence permit and tax ID numbers for the parents and children. I personally did not learn about this for almost 6 months after moving to Germany. And, like most things here, it will take time for your paperwork to be processed – so start as soon as you can.
What is Kindergeld?
Kindergeld is a monthly payment from the government to parents in Germany – regardless of their income. This is to ensure that children’s basic needs are covered. Currently, in 2023, the amount is 250 euros per month per child.
Kindergeld can only be requested by one parent, which means that married couples will have to make a decision about who will receive it. In cases where you and your partner are no longer together, the parent with primary custody should be the one to claim child benefit. Even if you are not the child’s biological parent but they are residing with you, it is still possible to claim Kindergeld on their behalf.
What is the age limit for Kindergeld?
The typical age limit for claiming child benefit is when your child turns 18. However, there are exceptions that allow you to receive payments beyond this age limit:
- If your child is unemployed and actively seeking employment, registered with an Employment Agency, you can continue receiving child benefit until they reach the age of 21.
- If your child is pursuing education or training, such as attending university or vocational programs, you can still receive child benefit until they turn 25 or complete their first vocational qualification or degree.
- If your child has a disability that prevents them from supporting themselves, you can continue receiving child benefit until they reach the age of 25.
What about tax deductions?
Parents have the opportunity to achieve additional tax savings by deducting their daycare expenses, up to a maximum of 4,000 euros per year, as well as school fees, up to a maximum of 5,000 euros per year. It’s important to note that the tax relief obtained from these deductions will be offset against the amount of child benefit already received.
What happens when I miss work because my child is sick?
Children get sick, and sometimes they get sick A LOT – especially when they are younger. In the States, when I worked full-time as a children’s librarian, my son got sick ALL THE TIME in daycare. I would have to use my limited personal sick days and then tap into my vacation hours.
It was a stressful nightmare. I was always so grumpy when other parents would send their sick kids to daycare and risk getting other children sick, but they were in the same boat. Either send your kid to school or daycare with Tylenol to hide the fever – or risk losing your job.
In Germany, it is not like that at all! I am so very thankful! Life has become a lot less stressful as a working mom because Germany recognizes the importance of supporting parents in caring for their sick children. They have provisions in place to allow parents to take time off work and stay home with their sick children without facing significant financial burdens or negative consequences in their employment.
Parents are entitled to take sick leave when their child falls ill. This means that if a child is unwell and requires parental care, one or both parents can take time off from work to provide the necessary care and support. Sick leave for parents is separate from their personal sick leave entitlement.
During the period of sick leave for a child, parents may be eligible for continued payment from their employer or receive compensation through statutory sick pay benefits paid for by child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld).
Germany’s approach to allowing parents to stay home with sick children aligns with the country’s commitment to family-friendly policies. It recognizes the importance of parental involvement and support during times of illness, ensuring that parents can prioritize their child’s well-being without facing significant financial hardships or job insecurity.
It’s worth noting that while Germany provides support for parents to take sick leave, it is important for parents to communicate with their employers and follow the necessary procedures for reporting and documenting the absence. Each employer may have specific policies and requirements in place for managing sick leave, and it is crucial to adhere to these guidelines to ensure a smooth process and maintain a positive work relationship. This is definitely something you should talk about before you sign your work contract!
Germany is a wonderful place to live with kids! I am so happy we decided to settle here. I hope this article has been really helpful, but if you have any questions send me a message in the contact form below. I would love to help!