Family & Pets

Parenting and family life in Germany

Discover everything you need to know about raising a family in Germany including traditional values and norms, parenting styles, childcare, and more.

Family in Germany

By Christelle Myburgh

Updated 7-2-2024

Moving to any country with children is a big decision and one that can pose many challenges as well as advantages. However, those planning to relocate to Germany can look forward to enjoying many benefits once they overcome the initial hurdles of settling down abroad.

To help prepare you for the transition, this article outlines everything you need to know about raising children in Germany, including the following:

International School on the Rhine

The International School on the Rhine is located in the Düsseldorf – Neuss – Cologne region. It offers an excellent international education through full-day schooling in a multilingual environment. ISR offers an outstanding academic program, individual support for students, and several extra-curricular activities through a non-selective, college-preparatory education system.

Family norms in Germany

Most households in Germany consist of a nuclear family that includes a mother, father, and children. However, the average family size is smaller than in previous years. This is partly because couples are choosing to have fewer children. Indeed, there were approximately 1.46 children born per woman in Germany in 2022, which is the lowest level since 2013, when the figure was 1.42.

As a result, the country’s birth rate is in steady decline. In fact, according to national statistics, around 739,000 children were born in Germany in 2022, representing a decline of 7.1% from 2021. And aside from a baby boom in 2021, which many dubbed “corona babies”, this trend looks set to continue.

parents holding a newborn baby in a hospital room and looking at it lovingly
Photo: Mayte Torres/Getty Images

It is also becoming more common for parents to choose not to get married and remain in de facto relationships, even though they are not recognized by German law.

Data from 2022 also shows that of the 11,862 families with children recorded in 2022, 7,969 consisted of married couples and 2,756 were single-parent households. Most of these single parents were mothers (2.3 million) while 487,000 were fathers.

There is also growing acceptance for families incorporating LGBTQI+ relationships. Indeed, around 65,000 same-sex couples have tied the knot since gay marriage was legalized in 2017. This law also granted same-sex couples the right to adopt, although the number remains relatively low.

The importance of family

Germans generally consider family to be of fundamental importance. They find value in the distinctive personal relationships that relatives have with each other and the support they share.

Relatives are also expected to help nurture children’s aspirations and help them reach their full potential. This includes grandparents, who often help with childcare.

That said, the German family hierarchy has changed over the years. For instance, men are not necessarily viewed as the head of the household, and in many families, both parents work and make joint decisions. Indeed, gender does not necessarily determine one’s role or duty within the family.

Family activities and attractions

Fortunately for parents, there are numerous family attractions and fun things to do with children in Germany. For instance, the country is home to several popular theme parks, including Europa-Park, LEGOLAND, Movie Park, and Phantasialand. These offer an impressive number of rides, attractions, and shows to squeeze into a day or weekend trip.

There are also numerous fun museums to explore, including the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, the Haribo Factory Outlet in Bonn, and Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg. Aside from this, there are plenty of scenic hiking trails that allow little ones to experience the beauty of the great outdoors.

a parade of colorful characters walking through Legoland with crowds cheering on either side
LEGOLAND in Günzburg (Photo: picture alliance/Getty Images)

Germany also boasts several stunning fairy-tale castles that children will no doubt love to explore. This includes the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle which inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. A road trip along the well-known Fairy Tale Road (or Märchenstraße) also makes for an unforgettable family outing.

Because Germany is very much geared towards family life, establishments are also extremely child-friendly. For instance, many bars and restaurants provide big play areas and special menus for kids.

Family-friendly festivals

Germany is famous for its vibrant festivals which promise to be a fun day out for the whole family. Among the most child-friendly are KinderKinder Festival in Hamburg, the Festival of Giant Kites in Berlin, and of course, the iconic German Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkts) that pop up across the country.

Travel discounts

Children can enjoy generous travel discounts in Germany. For example, those under five can travel free of charge and do not need their own ticket.

Meanwhile, children up to 14 years can travel free of charge on the condition that they are being accompanied by a person who is 15 years or older.

Students also enjoy lower rates on public transport such as buses, subways, and trams, as well as car rentals.

Children and parents in Germany

Attitudes towards children

Generally speaking, German parents treat their children like adults and speak to them as such. Since they place a high value on independence and responsibility, they treat their young ones with trust and respect and set healthy boundaries. However, they expect the same from their children. As a result, mutual trust is one of the foundations of parenting in Germany.

a little girl wearing a cycling helmet and getting support from her father when riding a bike for the first time
Photo: Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

Young children are surprisingly unrestricted. For instance, teenagers are free to socialize unaccompanied with friends, make their own decisions (to a large extent), and even manage their own bank accounts with support from their parents.

The home is thought to be a safe environment where an individual’s uniqueness can be fully revealed. Most youngsters leave their parents’ homes when they go to university or become financially independent. This is good news for parents hoping to enjoy some well-deserved freedom after raising their children.


Women can give birth in a hospital, birth house, or at home in Germany, and all three options are covered by health insurance. Therefore, expectant mothers will need to be registered with either a public or private health insurance scheme to access maternity services in the country.

New mothers usually stay in the hospital for up to five days after giving birth. Nurses and midwives provide support when it comes to caring for newborn babies. This includes helping with breastfeeding or bottle feeding and general care.

However, the main point of contact during pregnancy is the community midwife, who coordinates arrangements on the mother’s behalf with a larger team of general doctors, obstetricians, and other hospital staff. They will also arrange her prenatal appointments and tests.

Public health insurance will typically cover the basic costs of pregnancy and childbirth in Germany. However, there may be additional costs for some of the paperwork associated with giving birth. You can read more about this in our article on having a baby in Germany.


If you are moving to Germany with little ones, you will find a wide range of childcare options including nurseries, daycare, crèches, and preschools, which cater to children from around three months to six years. These can be run by private, public, or non-profit institutions.

little children playing with colorful wooden building blocks on a table
Photo: Lourdes Balduque/Getty Images

However, costs and availability can vary significantly throughout the country. For instance, even though all children in Germany have a legal right to a childcare place from the age of 12 months, spots can fill up quickly. Therefore, it is advisable to start applying as early as possible.

You can check with your local Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) to see what childcare options are available in your area. You can also ask friends, neighbors, and colleagues for recommendations.

When choosing where to apply, it is important to consider the location, the child-to-minder ratio, and whether the staff speaks English. It is also a good idea to check the opening hours and whether food is provided.

Notably, German residents can access funding for childcare, although there may be certain eligibility criteria such as income thresholds. You can read more about this in our article on childcare in Germany.


Another major benefit of moving to Germany with children is the country’s high standard of education. Indeed, the German education system consists of many quality local schools as well as numerous private and international schools that cater to expat children.

While most students in Germany attend local schools, which are free, many expats consider an international school to ease their child’s transition. After all, these allow students to continue their education in a familiar language and curriculum.

two young girls of different ethnicities (black and caucasian) standing next to a whiteboard in front of the class
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

Most international schools in Germany also have small class sizes, excellent facilities, and high educational standards, which is appealing to parents. However, they are mostly privately run and charge annual fees which can be expensive. Therefore, parents will need to consider whether the expense is affordable and worthwhile. You can read more about this in our article on international schools in Germany.

Parenting in Germany

German parenting styles

Generally speaking, German parents believe in encouraging children to become self-reliant by giving them the freedom and independence to learn their own life lessons. This means allowing them to function with limited parental supervision according to their age and development, which is often referred to as “free-range parenting”.

The family home is viewed as a place to nurture a child’s individuality and aspirations without ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’, so to speak.

Children tend to call their parents “Mama” and “Papa” or “Mutti” and “Vatti”. They may, however, refer to them as “Mutter” or “Vater”. The most common terms of endearment that parents use for their children are “Schatz”, “Schatzi”, or “Schätzchen”, which means “treasure” or “little treasure”. Other terms include “Liebling” (“dear” or “darling”), “Bärchen” (“little bear”), and “Süßer” or “Süße” (“sweet”).

Bringing up teenagers

Germany is considered to be a great country for teenagers. Parents expect their children to inform and consult them, and in return, grant them the freedom to manage their own affairs. Many teens attend local sports clubs or music lessons in the afternoons. Soccer, bicycling, skating, and hiking are also popular activities among the younger generations.

In Germany, teenagers can legally drive a motorcycle at the age of 16 but must be 18 to get a driver’s license. Unlike in some European countries, the legal drinking age in Germany is 16, not 18.

Unfortunately, German teenagers have been increasingly smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes in recent years. This is thought to be related, in part, to the widespread anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

a teenager boy and girl wrapped up in winter clothing and smoking cigarettes outside while having a conversation
Photo: PIKSEL/Getty Images

Fortunately, though, the country offers many services dedicated to helping teenagers with mental health problems. This includes comprehensive mental health support for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Notably, public health insurance now includes outpatient psychotherapy treatment. Other mental health services, however, may only be accessible to those who have private health insurance.

Verbal and relational bullying are more common than physical bullying in German schools. However, many institutes have anti-bullying programs and encourage parents to contact them if their children are victims of intimidation.

Parenting support and classes

There are various types of support available for parents in Germany. This includes ‘early help’ advice centers where young parents can benefit from free advice and support from a midwife or family carer. There is also a free and anonymous parents’ hotline where staff will listen to parents’ concerns and difficulties.

Meanwhile, the Child and Youth Welfare Service offers parenting courses and provides support from counselors who specialize in child care. There are also parenting courses for refugees with children aged five or younger.

In addition to this, there are numerous Meetup groups throughout Germany that bring mums together and help them make new friends and seek advice. There are also specific groups for single mums to help them feel supported in their unique challenges. Aside from this, there is a Facebook group for English-speaking mums in the country.

Parents who want to become involved in their child’s school can try to join its Parent Advisory Board (PAB) which is usually selected annually. Any parent can stand for election, but they will need to speak and understand German reasonably well. Schools also run community events and fairs where parents can get involved.

Families with special needs in Germany

There are approximately 194,000 children and teenagers under the age of 18 in Germany who have a recognized disability. Around 21,000 of them live in child and youth services facilities, and about 102,000 live in integration support facilities.

Germany’s Basic Law (Grundgesetz) and Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch) ensure that parents of children with disabilities receive guidance and support. This is provided by the Youth Welfare Office in each municipality.  

Like all children in the country, young disabled children are entitled to daycare. There are also special groups for those with a higher level of disability. However, the government has recently introduced programs to encourage the integration of students with special needs into mainstream education.

There is also an extended child benefit allowance available to disabled children over the age of 25 who cannot care for themselves. Parents also have the option of having the child’s sum allowance transferred to them in order to benefit from tax advantages.

Adopting and fostering in Germany

In 2021, 3,843 adoptions were recorded in Germany and 87,300 children lived in foster homes.

You do not have to be a German citizen to foster in Germany, however, you do need permission to stay in the country so that you are able to care for the child long-term. You also need to have German language skills to qualify as a foster parent.

Both single and same-sex couples are allowed to foster children in Germany. However, they need to be able to provide enough living space and financial security outside of the fostering allowance.

two men wearing pajamas and holding a young baby in their bedroom
Photo: Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images

The assessment process and subsequent placement can take up to nine months. During this time, applicants must attend fostering school and take a program to obtain a foster care qualification. Notably, there is professional support available for foster parents, before, during, and after the placement.

You do not need to be a German citizen in order to adopt a child in Germany. However, you do need to be married. Moreover, one spouse must be at least 25 years old and the other at least 21. They must also prove sufficient financial security.

Notably, same-sex married couples can also adopt in Germany. However, because the process is a little more complex, it is advisable to work with an adoption agency that accepts gay couples and is more specialized in this area.

The role of grandparents

Grandparents play quite a significant role when it comes to raising children in Germany. They help them achieve a sense of legacy and identity while providing emotional support and teaching them valuable life lessons.

As mentioned, grandparents often look after their grandchildren so that parents can work. In fact, one-third of families rely on them for childcare support.

Generally speaking, children have a warm, relaxed, and loving relationship with their grandparents, who they call “Opa” (granddad) and “Oma” (grandma) or “Opapa” and “Omama”.

Extended family in Germany

Germans place a high value on family life and relatives are usually well-connected in the country. Uncles and aunts are called “Onkel” and “Tante”, unless they are simply called by their first names. Notably, a male cousin is “cousin” and a female cousin is “cousine”.

Religious godparents, which are sometimes called ‘guide parents’, are no longer the norm in Germany. However, they can be legally appointed as guardians in the parent’s testament. Parents tend to ask relatives or even friends to take responsibility for their children in the unlikely event that they pass away or become unable to raise them. Notably, this is a relational agreement and not legal.

Parents usually view their chosen godparents or guide parents as adults who know their children well and are able to provide physical and emotional comfort in case of need.

Owning a pet

People tend to treat their pets like royalty in Germany, which is good news if you have one.

According to statistics for 2020, there are around 39.4 million pets in the country, which equates to nearly one per household. Cats are the most popular choice (15.7 million), followed by dogs (10.7 million) and smaller pets such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs (5 million).

a little girl laying on a bed and cuddling a cute fluffy kitten, both have their eyes closed and seem happy
Photo: AkilinaWinner/Getty Images

Unsurprisingly for a nation of pet lovers, Germany has a culture of good pet treatment and high standards of animal welfare. In fact, it ranks fifth globally on the Dog-Friendly Country Index, and its Animal Welfare Act is enshrined in the Civil Code. The act outlaws causing intentional pain without good reason to vertebrates, warm- and cold-blooded animals.

It is important to note that pet laws regarding vaccinations, microchipping, and importation vary from state to state. Therefore, you will need to check the particularities of the one you live in.

Work and welfare for families in Germany

Germany’s generous financial support for families is a major benefit when it comes to raising children in the country. This is due to the government’s concerns about the nation’s declining birthrate. As a result, the German social security system offers parents generous welfare payments, especially when compared to most English-speaking countries.

Families and single parents can benefit from various benefits, tax allowances, and deductions. For instance, child benefit (Kindergeld) is €250 per month per child, for all children under the age of 18. These allowances may continue until the child turns 25, depending on the circumstances; for instance, if the child is assuming career training. Notably, everyone is paid the same amount, regardless of the parent’s income.

The tax-free child allowance is €6,024 per year. Each parent is entitled to half of this amount and single parents are entitled to the full amount, under certain circumstances.

Both mothers and fathers can apply for unpaid parental leave (Elternzite) for up to three years after the baby’s birth. They can also apply for parental allowance (Elterngeld) which covers 65% of their salary if they are high-income earners and up to 100% if they are low. Notably, this benefit lasts for one year but can be extended to 14 months if the second parent stays at home for at least two months. The aim is to allow both parents to take time off.

Family health and wellbeing in Germany

Fortunately, most residents who live or work in Germany are eligible for public health insurance which grants access to free medical care for children until the age of 18. This includes care from pediatricians, as well as vaccinations and hospital treatment.

That said, some expats prefer to have private health insurance in order to access more specialist treatments and benefit from shorter waiting times and better facilities. However, it is important to be aware that you need to earn above a certain threshold to be able to switch from statutory to private health insurance in Germany. You can read more about this in our article on health insurance in the country.

Useful resources

  • BMFSFJ – a government website that provides a downloadable brochure on Parenting in Germany
  • Make it in Germany – a government website that provides information about all aspects of family life in Germany including parental leave, childcare, and compulsory education
  • TIME – an article called How to parent like a German that sheds light on the typical parenting style in the country