Yes, finding a Kita is hard, getting your child settled at Kita can be hard (keyword: Eingewöhnung) but nobody talks about how hard the first year or two can be if your kids start Kita young!
So this is the blog post I wish I had read when our daughter first started Kita – I would have felt so much more prepared! Now I am hoping to pass on the knowledge we’ve gained as parents when our kid(s) started Kita…
Here’s the gist of it:
Kita kids get sick. A lot. So do the parents. And the teachers…
We thought that once the Eingewöhnung was done, we would settled into a nice routine of work and Kita with minimal disruptions. But we were sooo wrong.
As it turns out, the average Kita aged child gets sick 12 times per year! Think colds, somewhat regular stomach bugs or other unpleasant diseases such as foot and mouth plus the teething for the littlest ones…
Especially during the fall and winter, the teachers also tend to get sick more often, which may lead to less kids being accepted on certain days, early closing times or (worst case scenario) total closures for certain days.
In summary, it’s been a mess, especially during the pandemic.
But even pre-pandemic we were utterly unprepared for the number of days our kid had to stay home because they were sick and how often we got sick ourselves (and not just for 2-3 days like we used to, but full on sick for 10 days at a time.)
So, what is there to do?
I think just mentally preparing for the worst case scenario is helpful so it doesn’t hit you completely unprepared. And perhaps it won’t be quite so bad – it depends on your child, the size of the Kita group, your own immune system, etc.
Also, it is helpful to know about the legal framework around child sick days. In Germany, employees with public health insurance (as well as some freelancers) are entitled to a certain number of child sick days (“Kinderkrankentage”). This applies to parents with kids up to 12 years old who also have public insurance.
During the pandemic and up until the end of 2023, parents were entitled to 30 days of child sick days (“Kinderkrankentage”) per child per year (capped at 65 total). As of January 2024, parents get up to 15 working days per child for a maximum of 35 days per year. Single parents are entitled to 30 days per child per year (capped at 70 days per year.)
For this, you will need to submit a doctor’s note to your employer and health insurance. Note that you will get paid the "Kinderkrankengeld" by your health insurance for the days you take and that the pay is capped at 90% of your net pay (or a maximum of €120,75 per day as of 2024), unless your employer has a different setup (which some tech companies do, where they bypass the health insurance and pay out the full amount.)
(Freelancers and self-employed professionals unfortunately do not get such benefits unless they have elected to receive Krankengeld or their health insurance offers "Kinderkrankengeld".)
It is also helpful to discuss who will take care of the child(ren) in such instances so that each partner is clear about their role and responsibilities.
In terms of trying not to get sick so often, there’s a few basic rules you can follow. Wash hands regularly and with soap (for yourself and your child). Wash their water bottle regularly and thoroughly. The same applies to pacifiers.
At some point I got so desperate that I also asked my GP for recommendations. She suggested taking Orthomol Immun* (for the adults) for three days straight whenever we feel a cold coming on. While it’s quite expensive that does seem to have helped, whether in actuality or just by feeling better mentally cause we’re doing something 🤷🏼♀️
Finally, having a trusted person that can help with Kita pickups and afternoon activities if you are sick yourself is also very helpful. So think about finding a babysitter that can help in these instances (and perhaps also give you some free time when you’re not sick!)
I hope this article did not turn out overly dark or pessimistic 😅. But I think for many families, this is the reality in the first year or so of Kita and I find it best to be prepared.
But I do hope your first year won't be quite so hard and am keeping my fingers crossed for you! *not an advertisement or affiliate link, just a recommendation passed on from our GP
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