9 of the biggest differences between British and American parenting styles

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9 of the biggest differences between British and American parenting styles
Families on both sides of the pond do things a little differently. Chris Jackson/Mark Davis/Getty Images
  • There are some major cultural differences between being a parent in the US and the UK.
  • Minimum maternity leave is typically longer in the UK, and new mothers meet with midwives.

People around the world have their own parenting rules and styles, but there are generally some consistent themes within individual countries.

Read on for some of the biggest differences between parenting in the US and the UK.

Brits generally get more maternity leave

According to the UK government website, new mothers are required to take two weeks of maternity leave (four weeks if they work in a factory), and some people are eligible for up to 52 weeks of leave.

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New mothers can also get anywhere from 12 to 39 weeks of paid leave in the UK, and new British fathers may be eligible for one to two weeks of paid paternity leave.

On the other hand, there is no national paid maternity or paternity leave in the US, according to UNICEF. Any paid or unpaid leave is decided by individual companies.

It's not uncommon to find kids in British pubs

In the UK, it's not out of the ordinary to walk into a neighborhood pub and see a few kids running around.

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Many pubs in Britain have a more lax, open feel than American bars, so it's easier for parents to head to an occasional happy hour with their kids in tow.

There's different terminology for baby-related products and phrases

9 of the biggest differences between British and American parenting styles
What Americans call pacifiers, Brits call dummies. Nor Gal/Shutterstock

Most people are aware that certain words differ between the UK and the US - "jumper" and "sweater," "crisps" and "chips," "biscuit" and "cookie." So it should come as no surprise that parenting language has some differences as well.

If you're raising a child in the UK, you might find yourself using words like "posset" (spit-up), "dummy" (pacifier), and "nappy" (diaper).

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British summer vacations are typically shorter

The public school system in the US usually offers approximately three months for summer break, with a few smaller breaks throughout the year.

In the UK, summer breaks are shorter, about six weeks, but there are also other breaks and bank holidays throughout the year.

Baby showers are more of an American event

9 of the biggest differences between British and American parenting styles
The parties are growing in popularity across the UK. Alexander Lukatskiy/Shutterstock

In the US, baby showers are a standard rite of passage for expecting parents. But in the UK, some people think it's bad luck to buy presents for a baby before they're born.

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But this doesn't mean that baby showers are impossible to find across the pond. According to multiple British parenting blogs, baby showers are gradually growing in popularity.

New British mothers get visits from midwives

In the UK, whether expecting people are giving birth in the hospital or at home, midwives will be present. In contrast, according to Scientific American, only about 8% of American births are attended by midwives as of 2019.

After the birth, the midwife is available for visits until the baby is at least 10 days old to ensure that the parent and child are adjusting well.

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Since this is a service that comes with the National Health System (NHS) in the UK, it's free.

The cost of giving birth is covered in the UK

9 of the biggest differences between British and American parenting styles
The medical expenses are covered in the UK. Getty Images

The actual process of giving birth doesn't cost new parents anything in the UK, thanks to the NHS. This also includes a certain number of prenatal/antenatal care throughout the pregnancy.

In the US, giving birth in a hospital can reportedly set you back between $5,000 and $11,000 depending on the state.

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Parents aren't solely responsible for teaching their children sex education in the UK

In the UK, sex education is required in primary and secondary schools. Starting at age 13, kids in the UK can also sign up for a program through the NHS called the "C-card" program, where they can receive free condoms and lube.

But this responsibility falls more squarely on parents' shoulders in the US as only 24 states and Washington DC require sex education be taught in schools, and even then, the content is up to individual school districts.

Kids' birthday parties have a few differing traditions in the US and UK

9 of the biggest differences between British and American parenting styles
Opening presents is more present at American parties. elocin84/Shutterstock

If you attend a child's birthday party in the UK, you probably won't see them open their presents during the party, which is more customary in the US.

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There's also a difference surrounding the tradition of birthday cake. At both UK and US children's parties, you'll find people singing "Happy Birthday" and blowing out candles. But in the UK, the cake is typically sliced, wrapped in napkins, and sent home in party bags instead of being eaten at the party.

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