Will the Kids Be Alright? | Live Work Travel USA
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Will the Kids Be Alright?

It feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Your employer is offering to send you to their U.S. subsidiary, so that you can help develop an important project. It’ll be good for the company and great for your career. And you’ve always dreamed of working in America. But what about your spouse and your 3 kids? Will they be as excited about this opportunity and be supportive?

Every year thousands of families move to the United States on a temporary work visa. Some of them bring their whole family. It’s an invaluable opportunity for you, but also a big sacrifice for your spouse and kids, because they leave behind their friends, grandparents, nephews, nieces, co-workers and most likely a job that just got comfortable and brought in some extra income. But for the sake of their partner’s career, spouses often times give in and try to be supportive, making the best out of it.

Older kids (6-18) are probably more difficult to get excited about leaving friends behind and their current school, but they might also find it very cool to live in America and can’t wait to leave. Younger kids (age 1-5) are usually cool with whatever their parents decide and adapt quickly, even to a different language. As soon as they get distracted, the initial uncertainty is gone. It’s amazing to see how they adapt and prove that there’s no language barrier in play. There’s not much talk needed to have a good playdate and while their English buddies keep blabbering in English, your kid will start to remember these words and start using them in their own vocabulary.

So, how kid friendly are the United States really?

I mentioned it before and I say it again: American people love kids and they don’t hesitate to show it, even to kids from strangers.Wherever I go with my family, I’ve never experienced so many nice comments like “Cute kid”, “He’s adorable” or “She’s as cute as a button” as in America. People really cater to kids and try hard to make them feel comfortable by talking to them, making funny faces or just paying attention to them, which they love. Here’s what else makes them feel comfortable and helps out parents:

Playgrounds

playground-300x225Playground are literally EVERYWHERE throughout America. From 5 story fully cushioned play houses to just a swing on a tree, there’s always something for little kids, because they’ll be the first to get bored and need entertaining. A lot of facilities, parks and neighborhoods have their very own playgrounds to keep kids busy and the parent’s mood up.

Waiting Areas

At doctor’s offices there’s always stuff for kids to do. Books, paper and colorful crayons, toys and even TVs with kids shows are available most of the time. Adults and older kids usually just stare into their cell phones, read one of the many magazines or just watch TV, because a TV is as invaluable as air to breathe for some Americans. So it’s just always there wherever you might be. I also mentioned that phenomena in my post about staying in the hospital.

Restaurants

Good restaurants offer kids something to do right after you got seated. This can be pre-printed coloring sheets or quizzes on paper, arcade games or little kids areas with toys. Fast food chains like to offer large indoor playgrounds, that’ll keep your little ones busy for easily an hour whenever there are other kids playing too. The menus always offer kid friendly choices, smaller portions and prices, but they will also happily just bring you a separate empty plate, if you decide to share a few bites from your own meal with your kids to save money. Not a problem at all and water is free anyways. Some restaurant’s  cater to kids exclusively, like Chuck E Cheese’s. That’s a popular fast food chain with all the food choices that kids love (pizza, fries, hot dogs, cupcakes, etc.) plus a lot of arcade games and activities inside the restaurant.

Tickets

Very young kids up until 2 or 3 years of age usually get free admission and older kids normally get a discounted ticket. It’s common in hotels, that young kids are free.

Stores

First example that pops in my head is Trader Joe’s – a national grocery chain. Kids not only get stickers at checkout, there’s also a treasure chest full of lollipops, where kids can take one for free after (or before) each visit. My daughter usually can’t wait and runs up to the treasure chest as soon as we enter the store. And that’s totally fine, even if she becomes greedy and takes 2, although I always tell her to keep it to one lollipop. Some stores offer little ride-alongs that you feed with a quarter, others have free cookies like in Harris Teeter – another grocery store. Malls offer play and nursing areas, sometimes even a Merry-go-round or Santa and the Easter Bunny showings during the holidays. In some stores like Home Depot or CVS Pharmacy there are special carts for kids with steering wheels and separate kid friendly drivers seats, so that they can enjoy themselves while you do your shopping. For infants there are carts with baby carriers.

Shopping carts for kids

Festivals and Events

At events I never have to worry that my daughter will get bored, because there’s usually a bouncy house, face painting or the people who make these funny balloon animals for kids. Older kids enjoy arcade games, free stuff and games like obstacle courses, etc.

Museums

It’s difficult to find a museum that does not have at least a push button for kids that triggers some noise, story or effect to keep them entertained and engaged. If there are no push buttons, museums usually offer things like coloring sheets to keep the little ones busy.

Spa & Hair Salons for Kids

Facials, manicure, pedicure and make up treatments are not only for adults in America. There are spas especially for kids. A pretty good idea are hair salons for children, where they can sit in cars or on animals while watching cartoons. That makes the hair stylist’s job a lot easier and the kids don’t jump around too much.

Family Friendly Features

At the airport it’s not uncommon to find a family lane at the airport security check, so that parents with kids can move through security quicker. That makes life of both adults and kids happier. Nobody wants to listen to crying babies while standing in the security line for an hour. So it’s a win-win.
Restrooms often have a separate family restroom and sometimes you’ll also find a special nursery area. Bathrooms usually have a diaper change foldout table, and water fountains come in two different heights. Sometimes there’s even a height for dogs at the bottom. Very thoughtful!

You see, young kids will have a blast in America with everything that is being offered to them. Older kids might struggle a little more at first because of the relationships they’ve built, but will eventually realize what a great opportunity this is. They’ll also enjoy seeing some of the places that they only knew from Hollywood movies. Driving a car at age 15 should also be a real highlight for them. In school and with new American friends they’ll get to improve and fine tune their English skills with real conversations to native speakers. An experience that is so immensely valuable for their education and they will learn a ton of social skills and going out of your comfort zone.

You might be worried about your spouse not being integrated into American society fast enough, but please do not worry about your kids no matter what age. They will learn so much and have a blast while doing so.

Photo credits:

http://hdydi.com/author/mrslubby/

http://theamazingtrips.blogspot.com/2006/07/adventures-at-home-deep-in-debt-depot.html

http://www.lawschoolblog.org/jessicas-law-americas-caste-system/

Cover photo credit:
Sydney Treasures Photography / Foter / CC BY

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2 Responses to “Will the Kids Be Alright?”

  1. Anke says:

    Hi Dan,
    thanks for the post. However, being German and having lived in NYC as a non-expat (for 7 years) and having a young child, I disagree in quite a few matters.

    As an expat, please keep in mind and maybe this should be pointed out more regularily, you see things from a different, if not more secure and thus relaxed, perspective.
    Let me expand on a few examples:

    1. Insurance – If you are lucky you can afford one or even better, you have one through your employer. If you are lucky, you can keep your insurance and the pediatrician you have been visiting for years still accepts it. If not, good luck finding another doctor. If you are lucky, the service needed is covered as this can change quickly.
    2. Child care – Willing to spend your spouses paycheck on day care – The US (NYC) is your place.
    3. Vacation – Try spending time with your kids when you start out with 10 days of paid vacation and maybe make it up to 15 days after 3 years with the same company. Changing jobs – oh, that takes you down to 10.
    4. Playgrounds – Yes, you can find one around each corner but there are no sandboxes. What you have instead are charming dark rubber mats laid out (in case a kid falls) that get so hot in summer, the playgrounds cannot be used due to burning hazard.
    5. Public transportation – Have you ever tried using public transportation with a stroller? On a subway without being yelled at? I am not even talking about making it onto a bus or not having to carry the stroller up 2 long flights of stairs once getting off the subway.

    I am sure there are a few more things to mention, as after all those years we decided to move back to Germany and actually enjoy life WITH our son.

    • Dan says:

      Interesting points Anke, and yes, I might have a more relaxed point of view about many things. New York City is a super expensive and very hectic place to live, especially with a child. I can see how people are not thrilled to make room for a stroller in an overcrowded subway, but do they really “yell” at your every single time you try to get in? And daycare can probably eat up most of a salary pretty easily. So does rent. The vacation days vary depending on the company though. I started out with 5 days and after 6 years I was up at 23 days. Enough time to spend quality time with my daughter and even when I am working I see her in the morning and in the evening plus all throughout the weekend. It’s a matter of how much time you spend on your commute and in your job, but that’s the parents decision and not necessarily a matter of location.

      I don’t understand why playgrounds need to have a sandbox, but some of the public playgrounds here in my area actually do have them. Even without sandboxes there are a lot of slides, swings and climbing obstacles to keep the little ones busy. And while rubber mats do get very hot on the hottest day in summer, my question would be why not use it on days with normal temperatures and do something else with the kids on hot days? Also, while NYC playground might only be equipped with rubber mats, that is not the case for the rest of the country. In my area they have mulch, rubber pellets, rubber mats or just plain old grass.

      Overall you paint a pretty dark picture of life in New York and kind of portray it on life in the USA in general. At least that is how I read it. New York is a tough place to be, but the USA is so much more than just NYC and I wish you would have experienced it at a different location, maybe further down south.

      Anyways, I wish you all the best in good old Germany and a lot of quality time with your son.

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