Guide to Panama for Expat Kids: Opportunities and Threats

Moving to Panama could be a challenge if you’re single, but with a family more so. It’s a pain to relocate growing children, plucking them away from friends and other families. If you’re moving to the isthmus, you need to know if it’s the best move.

Panama is one of the best places to raise kids in the world. Not only is the environment safe, but it’s also green, away from many hyper-industrialized cities. Living in Panama also exposes them to many nationalities and children of diverse races and languages. While Panama itself is far from lacking any dangers, it’s among the safest, most accepting countries.

If you’re curious what your kids should expect, here’s our guide to raising your kids in Panama. We’ll talk about the good, the bad, and what you can do to make moving to the isthmus much easier.

Here’s what you should do.

Raising Children in Panama

The life of an expat kid in Panama varies depending on where you live. If you plan on staying in Panama City itself, you’ll notice that your kid won’t miss much. Panama City itself is as big and forward as many other cities in the US or Europe. The quality of life, education, training, and activity choices are almost endless.

Panama has always been a country that is great for raising kids. Many regions in the country are safe and wholesome, able to facilitate an active lifestyle. People are friendly and easy to get close to, with kids from both locals and expats being a common sight.

There are many advantages to raising kids in Panama. Some include:

  • Many high-class educational institutions
  • Superb but low-cost healthcare
  • A green country away from extreme pollution
  • Diverse cultural exposure
  • Many choices for an active lifestyle
  • Diverse languages used by both locals and expats
  • Kids can make friends easier

Much like any country, however, Panama also has its problems. It has a few cons that you would want to nip in the bud. These include:

  • Very slow, countryside living
  • Too positive attitude
  • Crime rates and street gangs

As you can see, Panama is a great country but also has its limits. You would still need to look out and raise your kid. Let’s give a closer look at these pros and cons in detail to see if it’s worth it to have kids in Panama.

Understanding the Advantages of Growing in Panama

The advantages of Panama are evident in your first few days upon moving there. We consider Panama as the only country in Central and South America to have a full-fledged city. Panama City is among the most developed countries in the region that offers many good things to children.

The growing expat population offers a more significant demand for better international education. Everything from elementary to university is better because of the ever-increasing demand. There’s also so much greenery that you can expect your kids to enjoy the outdoors some more.

Panamanians are also some of the best people to live around. These people have warm smiles, passionate attitudes, and some of the friendliest from around the world. With that, let’s do a deep dive on the pros of raising your kids along this beautiful isthmus.

1. High-Class Panamanian Education

children writing on a school book

Education is one of the best growth opportunities in Panama. If you’re from the West, you are likely used to top-quality public education. As we know, the education field is an underfunded sector in the country, so private schooling is a must. In Panama, this is different, so knowing where to enroll your kids is crucial.

First, you need to consider what kind of annual school calendar you want your kids to follow. Panama allows two types of school calendars, allowing for greater flexibility. You can pick between:

  • Traditional Central American Calendar, between March to December
  • North American Calendar, between September to June

Private education in Panama is competitive, but it can cost some money. Many international schools offer specialized multilingual training to their students. The standard languages will be English and Spanish, with some schools like the Lycée français Paul Gauguin de Panama offering French immersion.

The majority of international and private schools in Panama are within the nation’s capital. You won’t see too many outside the city, so this is also a vital consideration. If you plan on living in a region away from the capital, expect some challenges.

You would also want to consider the cost of schooling. Some of the best schools in Panama include a hefty entrance fee or donation. The average tuition rates go from anywhere between $7000 to $16000 per year.

2. Low-Cost Panama Healthcare Insurance

One of the considerations you need to make in Panama is healthcare. Expats in Panama do not have mandatory health insurance, so you need to invest in a private health plan. Its citizens have a type of universal healthcare for locals, but the coverage is basic at best.

Local insurance plans in Panama will save you a ton of money. The cost is low enough that you can get a higher tier plan for the same value. Depending if you’re settling down in Panama or not, consider if you want healthcare even outside Panama.

You need to remember, however, that your kids would still need healthcare. While you may consider paying out of pocket for your children, insurance will save you money from big procedures. Invest in it for the long-term.

As schools and universities, most of the major hospitals are in major towns and the city. Consider if you would also like to invest in healthcare insurance that covers private hospitals. While public hospitals are ok, there can be long wait times and more crowding in them.

3. Green, Eco-Friendly Environment

When raising children, it’s crucial to give them an environment that encourages good health. Among these, it’s best to start with a clean, green environment. You want them to grow in a place with less pollution and more greenery. This description fits Panama perfectly.

Panama is among the greenest places in Central America. Life here is not only idyllic but eco-friendly too. Most of the isthmus is still full of jungles, trees, and deep rainforests – some are still undiscovered.

By living in Panama, you can give your kids a better appreciation of the environment. Everywhere they go, they will see an entire culture appreciating trees and mother nature. From locals who want to make sure that their country is ok up to foreigners concerned in conserving Panama, you’ll find it all here.

Not only is a beautiful environment an educational opportunity, it’s also a way to benefit their mental health. A green environment helps build the confidence of your kids by encouraging adventure. It helps promote their creative thinking and adventurous spirit too.

Green surroundings offer your child responsibility with their environment. It teaches them the value of life, and that taking care of nature can help them be better people. Panama’s beautiful greenery can help them relax their bodies and minds too.

4. Melting Pot of Cultures

children and cryons

Panama is a potpourri of different cultures, even from the early years of its population. Panama’s natives coexisted with westerners and the African slaves of old, with varying results. Today, locals and foreigners from everywhere are enjoying the bounty of Panama.

Foreign families who settle down in Panama will be happy to see families from other cultures. Locals will have their humble and welcoming Central American culture interspersed with Western cultures. Expats from other countries can also see people’s experiences from their parts of the globe.

Exposing your children to different cultures can make them better people in the long run. It broadens their perspective of the world, seeing it in the eyes of other people. It helps stamp out feelings of racism and improve their sensitivity to the opinions of others.

Learning from other cultures can also teach your kids newer skills and ways of communication. Knowing different cultures gives them better ways to judge life. Your kids will meet different diversities – various religions, colors, races, and ethnic backgrounds. Such diversity of knowledge will improve them as a person.

At last, Panama’s melting pot of cultures can give your kids friends from different places. If they decide to go worlds apart, your kids will have friends everywhere. This broadens their horizons, which is a liberating experience.

5. Panama’s Active Lifestyle

Panama is one of the best places to have an active lifestyle. Not only is the geography of the country itself conducive for outdoor activity, but the culture is as superb. People love going out and seeing the world with their own eyes.

Panamanians love their outdoor activities. For starters, locals have a propensity for sports. Your kids will have many options to not stick with their video games, from basketball to martial arts. Locals are also serious about their craft, so your kids will find good mentors.

If sports is not their thing, your kids can also enjoy swimming and playing in the ocean. There are accessible coasts and beaches everywhere. If they want to play on the beaches and swim, they have two oceans’ worth. They can learn how to fish, dive, or boat, so your kids also have many different options.

Even when kids don’t like water sports, they have jungles, forests, and mountains to traverse. Panama is home to some of the most beautiful mountains and most lush jungles. They can hike, mountain climbing, rock climbing, and everything in between.

Panama will push them to be active – to go around and find their passion. They will enjoy exercise and play without making the entire process too stuffy. As we know, an active lifestyle can give them a healthy body that they will cherish forever.

6. Multi-Lingual Approach to Living

man walking near to the signboard

What makes Panama a unique opportunity for raising kids is the potential for languages. As we know, children who are good communicators can excel in different facets of life. Knowing different languages and the discipline needed to learn them is crucial for your kids.

Panama has at least two languages – English and Spanish. Even with their daily interactions with the people around them, they will learn both for sure. If you have a separate native language or help them learn another, that gives them a superb advantage.

Learning a new language can have many benefits for your children. It can help improve memory and boost their rate of learning. They’ll also meet interesting people throughout their life, helping them navigate the world better.

Foreign languages also expand their outlook into the world. Children can be very reflective, giving them strong business skills in the future, and the ability to deal with people better.

If you’re in Panama, your kids can learn languages beyond the two official languages. There are also others available, like French and Portuguese. If your children like more exotic languages, there are specialized courses too. These offer native Panamanian dialect courses straight from natives.

Whatever language they want to learn, Panama will have it for sure.

7. Friendly Locals and Expats

What makes Panama one of the best places on Earth to raise kids is the friendliness of people. From the locals to many expats, the people in Panama are kind, warm, and welcoming. This is an excellent environment to raise your kids to become better people.

Panamanians have always been the gregarious bunch. Dealing with foreigners for most of their known history made them resilient to the presence of outsiders. From the colonials to the construction of the Panama Canal, bonds with foreigners is common.

Your kids will enjoy living in Panama for sure. They can share a familiar closeness with their fellow expat children, which is a great start. Your kids can also learn from local kids, share their blessings, and create lasting relationships.

It’s easy to make friends in Panama, whoever you may be.

Disadvantages of Raising Children in Panama

Panama, much like any country, has both good and bad things going for it. While your kids would love to live here and the people are the best, there are still some cons to it. These can be a deal-breaker for you or not, but they are anything if not resolvable. All you need is the right attitude when dealing with these flaws with an otherwise fantastic country.

1. Too Laidback Attitude

male feet

One of the major criticisms of Panama is the extreme laidback attitude of the people here. Everything in Panama is slow, too idyllic, and takes time. If you’re in a rush to get something done with people here, expect it to lag on and pushed for later.

The extreme laidbackness can become worse and become laziness or a lackadaisical attitude. This kind of outlook can make your kids less competitive, which will make them lag behind others their age. While you don’t want your kids becoming stiffs, you want to strike a balance between enjoyment and performance.

For your kids, not only is this one of the last attitudes your kids want to pick up, it can be frustrating too. Processing documents for your children can be a headache. It’s easy to tangle with bureaucracy and even getting into laggard transactions anywhere.

You’re an expat, so almost everything needs processing in Panama. These will be roundabout, so your kids will feel its effects.

2. People Are Too Positive

You’ll wonder why we list positivity in your kids can become a con. The problem comes from too much of such feelings, which exists in Panamanians.

Many Panamanians tend to have a very positive outlook on life. They’re so positive that they rank among the highest in many positivity polls. Too much of a good thing, however, can be a problem.

Extreme positive behavior is not sustainable. It’s unrealistic to expect that using only positivity to deal with things can be an issue. Panamanians can have a tendency to hold in their problems and not seek solutions for them. Some can indulge too much at potential positives that they don’t go around solving their problems.

Too much positivity can also push aside negative feelings that they need to deal with problems. This is crucial in learning lessons of life, understanding you need support, and knowing how to deal with such annoyances.

If you’re raising kids, positivity is a good trait. Even then, knowing how to be honest and in touch with themselves is a vital skill. Living in Panama can help your kids be more positive, but it should only be up to a point.

3. Common Crimes in Panama

Panama is a safe country in general, with meager crime rates compared to other countries. Much like any other country, Panama is not immune to conventional crimes. Street crimes and gangs are a problem in the country, but not as much as most ghettos in the US. You would still need to be careful, however.

The most prevalent crimes in Panama include:

  • Burglary
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Illegal drugs
  • Domestic violence

If you have kids, you would want to train them on how to deal with such situations. Moving with friends and family in slums and questionable locales is a vital survival skill. Knowing how to defend themselves is also a useful way to deal with such problems.

Another common issue that people who live in Panama deal with is gang culture. Street gangs are a problem for everyone and recruit adolescents and young adults. They are pervasive, pushing themselves on troubled teens who are looking for companionship. Dealing with street gangs means your child should know when to run and when to fight back.

Setting Up Your Child’s Life in Panama

child in the sea at sunset

What’s the future for your child in Panama? These details can vary from person to person, but the outlook is positive. Raising children in Panama can help nurture kids who have a wide array of skills. Panama offers you a more tranquil environment to help your child grow, so the ball is on your side.

So, how can you help your kids take advantage of the good things that Panama offers them? There are options available to you. Here are some tips that you can try.

1. Pick the Best Educational Institutions

If you can afford it, it’s best to bring kids to an international school in Panama. Many of these international schools provide some of the best education in the world. Many cater to foreigners looking to give their children western-style education.

The advantage of international schools come from their curriculum. Much of what they teach is equivalent to many states in US and European countries. They can receive the same honors and recognition in the US even if they live in Panama.

The academic standards in Panama’s private and international schools are different kinds of good. It teaches them much of what they will learn if they are in your home country. This education has sprinkles of Panamanian kindness and humility.

2. Choose the Environment You Want Them To Grow On

You have the option to raise your kids in the city or in the countryside and both are great! Each place has its advantages with different stages of child development. Where you pick is a vital consideration.

Picking to live in the countryside like Pedasi, Boquete or even Santiago can help give them a sense of community. These countryside areas offer a tightknit community of locals they can call their own. If you decide to stay in a smaller locale, you’re giving them a good life away from the bustle of the city.

Living in the city offers better access to everything. Life in Panama City is still not as fast as the major US or European cities. It is still less idyllic than living in the countryside. This type of living arrangement for your kids in Panama lets them make the best out of what the country has to give.

Living in the countryside is great for small kids or those taking homeschooling. If you want quality education for your kids, you would need to stay near or within the city.

See what fits the needs of your kids. If you are willing to give your kids as much access to modernities as possible, Panama City is the choice for you.

3. Support Their Hobbies

boy plays football

Among the best ways, you can do to support your kids is to support their hobbies and interests like going outdoors. Whether it’s kayaking, swimming or going on outdoor adventures, partaking in the same activities will motivate them. Panama can only provide the environment, but you still need to nurture positive experiences.

Help your kids find out what they want to do. There are so many activities they can do in Panama that the options they have are almost limitless. Let they find out what they want through their natural inquisitiveness.

Watch your child discover what they want and enjoy the process. Let them explore without the pressure of having to excel. You want them to find out if that activity is what they want to do. Their curiosity will take its course and let them enjoy the activity.

If your children are not sure what to take, see what fits their skills. Panama has so many outdoor activities that they can jump from one activity to another without much trouble. What’s important is their discovery of the things they want to do.

4. Foster Their Bonds and Friendships

Encouraging your kids to be accepting of the friendships of other kids will make the move to Panama much easier. Children gravitate to connecting with other kids their age. Supporting their friendships, as long as it is safe for them, can help them with the transition.

Your kids can take advantage of the friendly nature of Panama’s locals and expat children. Let them make as many friends as they like and connect to as many people as they can. Encourage them to have a more accepting demeanor so they can connect with many kids their age.

Help them make lasting bonds with others by accepting the people they make connections with. If they can see that you have a more positive attitude with those around them, they will know they can do it too. As long as these people don’t take advantage of them or put them in danger, it should not be much of a problem.

Panama is a country of lasting bonds. As your children grow, these bonds that they create can be a valuable asset to their growth.

Conclusion

Panama is one of the best countries where you can raise kids. It offers one of the most beautiful, greenest surroundings, together with some of the richest cultures in the world. It’s not hard to imagine why people want to move here and let their children grow up surrounded by the people of the isthmus.

When moving to Panama, consider what kind of life you want to give to your children. Everything from education, where you settle, and even the activities they do depends on where you stay. It’s vital to plan out what life you want to give them so you can determine the route your family needs to take.

Panama is a safe space for you and your children to start a new life together. You can enjoy many liberties in child-rearing that you won’t get in many parts of the world. Take advantage of it by moving to Panama and taking roots in this beautiful Central American country.

Do you plan on moving to Panama? What kind of life do you want to give your kids? We’re sure Panama is the right country for you.

Matt Romero

I’m Matthew Romero, one of the guys behind PanamaLifeInsider.com I am incredibly passionate about Panama, its beautiful territory, and all the incredible opportunities which offer to people coming here from all over the world both either visiting and settling. In this blog, I decided to share my passion with you!

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