By Franck & Cristina
Photo Credit: Dustin Brice
“Do we really need to move to China?”
This was our 5-year old Pablo’s question two weeks before we said goodbye to New Jersey to move to Shanghai. How do you answer when your child asks you such a question, right after the last bedtime story? We felt it was a thoughtful question. Do we really NEED to go to another country?
This is not the only question that Pablo asked with his 8-year old sister Elena, as the deadline for our move to Shanghai came closer. Among some of the questions they asked us: “How many weeks are we going to stay there?” (mmmhhhh, at least 156), “If you and mom like it here in New Jersey, why do you want to go?” and “I don’t think we are ever going to come back, do you?”
As parents we thought we had prepped them well about our move to China. It has been a little over two years that we started learning mandarin as a family. Then, suddenly in March of this year, we got an opportunity to work in Shanghai for the next three years. It felt like a dream come true, an opportunity for the whole family to discover a new culture and really learn the language.
We took a family vacation in April and decided to tell our children that we would move in July to a new country. We set out to tell them after a fun day in the swimming pool, while all of us had a chocolate ice cream, their favorite flavor. Our announcement went like that:
Us: “Who likes adventures?“
Them: “I do!!!”
Us: “Who would like to go on an adventure together?”
Them: “We do!!!”
Us: “Fourteen years ago, when mom and dad came to America, it was a real adventure for us. And now that we are a family of four, would you like to go for a new adventure together?”
Us: “Guess in which country you think this adventure will take place?”
They laughed a lot and seemed full of joy when we confirmed it was China. We talked about all the things we would do there. But slowly, after a few weeks, the inquisitive questions started to emerge. We thought we had done a good job in telling them about the move. We thought the hard part was over. But as the school year drew closer, as it was time to say goodbye to the ballet class friends, the soccer team friends, the pre-school and second grade friends, the neighborhood friends, we had to answer questions we did not prepare for.
As we write these lines we are a week away from landing in Shanghai. Right now, Elena and Pablo do not have yet questions for us about the life in a new country. But we, as parents, certainly have tons of questions that we ask ourselves: “What are we going to do the first weeks in Shanghai with Elena and Pablo?”, “How easy will it be to make new friends?”, “What will be their reaction when they discover a new school?”, “How do we get them to like a new cuisine?”, “What do we say if they tell us: “Can we move back home soon?” “.
Each family situation is certainly different, but we feel many families that relocate must have similar feelings prior to leaving. If you went through an international relocation with your children, we would welcome any tips you have for us to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Franck & Cristina are from France and Spain and now live in New Jersey, USA. Cristina grew up in the Basque Country, in Spain. Her best high school memories come from teaching English to young school children. She learned French when she met Franck. Cristina works for a consumer goods company. Franck grew up in Alsace, France, speaking Alsatian (a German dialect) with his parents and friends and learning French in school. He started learning German in elementary school and English in high school. He came to Boston where he was inspired to learn Spanish when he met his wife Cristina. Elena (7) and Pablo (4) are Franck & Cristina’s children. They live in New Jersey with their parents and speak English, Spanish and French. The whole family is learning Chinese. In order to expose Elena and Pablo to their first Mandarin Chinese words, Franck and Cristina created a free iPhone and iPad app, “Princesses Learn Chinese”. Since then, they also released “Princesses Learn French” and “Princesses Learn Spanish.” You can visit their blog at www.earlylanguages.com