Bella vita

An American Mom Revealed 6 Big Differences Between Parenting In Italy And The U.S.

There are some amazing differences, but also a few hard adjustments.

An American mom living in Italy did a rundown of everything that's different about raising your kids...
Sarah L. Thompson / TikTok

Some American parents opt to move out of the country and raise their children in other parts of the world like Spain, Denmark, and Japan. One American mom recently went viral after sharing insights into raising her family in Italy, specifically the Amalfi Coast.

Sarah L. Thompson posted a video revealing certain differences between raising kids in the U.S. and raising kids in Italy. Some of which, she admitted, were hard to get used to.

First, Thompson said that kids in Italy go to bed much later than American children (and some adults!)

“Holy crap, Italian kids go to bed so late,” she said in her viral video. “Sometimes like 10 p.m., 10:30 p.m., 11 p.m., it really depends. I had to adjust my kids to doing late bedtime because otherwise, we can't do the things that we want to do if they go to sleep early.”

“And when they go to birthday parties, grumpy as hell, you need to have them have the later bedtime so they're used to it.”

The American mom also said that cooking three fresh meals a day was something she was not used to doing state-side.

“It is actually incredible. Italy is one of the best food and best quality food in the world, but it is quite stressful and exhausting that you have to constantly prepare fresh food for your kids,” she admitted.

“Granted, he hasn't started eating solids yet, but my daughter, thankfully what we do in Italy, the hack is that they just make different sauces. They always have pasta for kids, but it's like pasta with zucchini, pasta with Pomodoro or pasta with pumpkin. You just kind of do that, but preparing that every day can get quite exhausting. At least they're eating really great.”

Thompson goes on to explain that, in Italy, kids and parents are constantly together. There is a large emphasis on family life. She notes that this aspect of Italian life has pros and cons. While she loves having her kids around, sometimes getting away as just a couple can be difficult.

“...the adult world and child world are combined. There's no difference. They do everything with us. We take them almost anywhere and everywhere, which is amazing, but also can be quite stressful because sometimes you need some time on your own, just as a couple,” she said.

Similar to Spain and Denmark, parents are not hovering around their children constantly, worried about abduction or danger.

“Having your kid run around in the main square of a piazza freely with cars going by, skaters going by, people just walking by — totally fine and not strange at all, especially if your kid's not right next to you,” she explained.

“I still have that anxiety, that American anxiety of stranger danger. Pretty much anywhere. Granted, I do live in a small town in the south of Italy, but ... here it's totally normal for kids to just roam around.”

Thompson also noted that Italian children are not circumcised which she admitted took her a bit to adjust to in regards to cleaning.

“Still learning that as we speak,” she admitted while holding her infant son.

Thompson also shared that Italian toys, diapers, and general products designed for kids are more expensive compared to the U.S.

“It's a little bit stressful because you're like, ‘I know I can get this cheaper in the U.S.’, but granted, I live in Italy,” she said.

Lastly, she praised the grace of the Italian people, noting that when her kids are acting up or crying in public, she doesn’t get “dirty looks.”

“They try to make him laugh or help me stop him crying, and it's incredible. I was in an American restaurant, people just glared at me,” she recalled.

Thompson confesses to Scary Mommy that though there are tons of positives to living outside the U.S., the culture shock was a huge adjustment

“You are raised in a specific culture your whole life- it was everything you ever knew and to relearn an entirely different culture it honestly felt like I was a child again,” she says.

“Just to go outside and order meat from the deli at local supermarket was a challenge for me. I had to not be afraid to make mistakes whether it was within the language or the metric system. It felt like a huge accomplishment when I successfully completed this daily, minuscule task that normally I could do with my eyes closed back in the States.”

For her child, the adjustment was much easier (since she was born in Italy!). In fact, when they went back to visit family in the U.S., Thompson says her daughter had the opposite culture shock.

“My Italian husband, Luigi, and I got married in the spring of 2019 and had our daughter, Chiara, in August 2019, but because of the pandemic, we weren't really able to go back to the USA to visit family and friends,” she shares.

“So, the Italian culture became her default culture. That was everything she ever knew and once we went to the States, she was experiencing what I felt many years ago when I first came to Italy. It was strange to see the reverse happen to my daughter and sometimes it can feel quite difficult to comprehend as I want her to experience as much as I have within my own culture as well as my husband's, but in reality. it's never truly 50/50.”

“The language has been the biggest challenge of them yet, but I know with consistency, practice, and being immersed in both respected countries, she will flourish.”

For parents looking at Thompson’s life and wondering if their family could also make the switch, she had some helpful advice.

“I definitely recommend to visit the town or city as much as possible, get to know the locals, the schools, the butcher in whichever neighborhood you are interested in. The locals know everything and they can help you a lot once you decide to make the big move,” she advises.

“Start creating that village and support. See what it's like to live there year-round and definitely start trying to learn the local language spoken if you don't speak it already!”

Whenever an American parent living in another country speaks about the differences between living in the U.S. versus another place in the world, there seem to be a few common themes. One of them is that, in other parts of the world, kids are part of the entire experience. They are included, catered to, and accommodated, just like any other human.

Another aspect of living outside of the U.S. seems to be that parents don’t need to helicopter around their kids. They can let them play and run and not have to worry about the safety of their kids. If only American parents living in America could feel that same kind of acceptance and ease.