Children in Germany
Taking children away from their friends and family can be a real wrench for them, especially when moving to a completely different country. But, there are ways to take the sting out of the tail. Start by telling them that the normal hours of school in Germany is 8 - 12 noon, that should cheer them up!
Some other things you can do to prepare them is get them to write down, or draw, the things that they need in their lives. If they include football, vow to find out about football teams as soon as you arrive. If they draw their cuddly toys, make sure they accompany you.
Arrange a going away party and make sure you get all the addresses of the important people in their lives and that you have taken their photographs.
The good news is that Germany is a very child friendly country. People are a lot more tolerant of children here than in parts of the UK. Of course you still have to be careful, but there are lots of things for children to do and they seem to have much more freedom here than in the UK.
For example, almost every city in Germany has its own children's theater, and the country's puppet theaters rank among the best in the world. Many movie theaters still have children's matinees, normally in the morning and afternoon.
There are playgrounds around virtually every corner with some truly wonderful gizmos, but they aren't always the safest places, some of the play equipment looks quite dangerous to me, but probably looks great to a child.
In addition there are about a half-dozen major theme parks around the country. Many tourist offices (Munich's, for example) have booklets of information for younger visitors. Updated lists of well-screened baby-sitters are also available at most local tourist offices. Rates are usually between €10 and €20 per hour. Many large department stores in Germany provide baby-sitting facilities or areas where children can play while their parents shop.
And with the internet, there's no reason that your kids can't stay in touch with family and friends. If you're worried about your kids chatting online, set up a private account on something like Skype or iVisit and restrict access to people you know personally.
The biggest problem you might have in Germany is noise. Not that Germany is noisy, quite the opposite, they have very strict noise control laws, and some people use these laws to make themselves feel important. So, if your children are "noisy" your neighbours may complain - a lot. I've never experienced this myself, but I know people who have - even for a crying baby - it usually affects people living in flats. Happily things are changing, but slowly, in Berlin for example children may now officially make a noise Monday to Saturday, 0900 to 1900, but they have to be quiet on Sundays. (I'm not joking).
If your children are two or older, ask about children's airfares. As a general rule, infants under two not occupying a seat fly at greatly reduced fares or even for free. When booking, confirm carry-on allowances if you're traveling with infants. In general, for babies charged 10% of the adult fare you are allowed one carry-on bag and a collapsible stroller; if the flight is full, the stroller may have to be checked, or you may be limited to fewer carry-ons.
Most hotels in Germany allow children under a certain age to stay in their parents' room at no extra charge, but others charge for them as extra adults; be sure to find out the cutoff age for children's discounts.
Children in cars: Any child under 12 and/or 1.5 metres in height cannot travel as a front- or rear-seat passenger unless using a suitable restraint system, if fitted.
Children Under Three
For very young children, between the ages of one and three, all-day care is possible at day nurseries. But as with all-day kindergartens, its hard to find free spots here. So-called Day Mothers (Tagesmütter) often provide day care in their own homes. You and the day care provider can agree on when you will drop off and pick up your child, and you arent bound to the specific times of other day care institutions. Babysitters, who charge an hourly fee to look after children, often advertise their services on notice boards found in supermarkets or kindergartens. You can find more information about all kinds of child care options at city and municipal administration offices.
Every child in Germany over the age of three has the right to a place in a kindergarten and can spend mornings there until about 12:30 p.m. Registration usually takes place in the spring, but most kindergartens will accept children later if theres still room. If the kindergarten, the parents (and the child) agree, children can stay either in the morning from 8 a.m. to noon and/or in the afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m. If you are looking for care for the entire day, there are some all-day kindergartens where your child can stay from about 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. But its difficult to find a spot at these places, simply because theyre so few in number.
ImF - In case you were wondering this is the Interest Group for Multilingual Families - not the International Monetary Fund. Otherwise known as the Interessengemeinschaft mehrsprachiger Familien. They have a list of English playgroups and an understanding of the problems children can face when being brought up bilingually.
IKEV - "The International Kids' English Club e.V. is based in the Darmstadt area. The aim of the group is to provide a forum for children to speak and maintain their English, and to act as a point of contact for their parents.
Scouting - If your children are members of the scouts it is nice to be able to reassure them that they can carry on after you move. Although there aren't British scouting groups all over Germany there may be one in your area.