Having a baby with a partner from a different culture can be an amazingly rich experience, but it also comes with challenges that need to be prepared for and faced together. This is particularly true when having a child in China. Below is a guide to some of the most important things to consider when having a baby with a Chinese partner.
Peace of mind about your family’s health is priceless when having a baby in China. This starts before your child is even born. Purchase decent commercial health insurance and make sure you and your partner has access to good prenatal care and a private room in a suitable hospital for the birth. This will help make the pregnancy and the birth as stress-free and safe as possible.
Once your child is born, having insurance will also mean you can enjoy regular check-ups to make sure all is going well with the child’s development and you won’t need to think twice about checking out any nagging coughs and sniffles.
Commercial health insurance can be a bit pricey, but if you budget well in advance and shop around you can get a good deal. Doting grandparents may also be happy to chip in a little cash. Either way, it’ll be well worth it if, god forbid, something serious happens and you’re stuck in China’s public health system or having to pay for everything yourself in a pricey private hospital.
It can be easy to fall into complacency after the child is born and not arrange for a passport if you don’t have any trips planned. But you never know when there might be an emergency that means you need to go to your home country or access medical care that’s not available in mainland China.
If your child’s going to have a Chinese passport, I recommend that you get them a long-term visa for your home country as soon as possible. It’s also worth getting a Hong Kong visa card, which allows the holder two entries into Hong Kong per year and is easily renewed. Hong Kong has some of the best hospitals in the region. Even the regular public hospitals are of the same standard of many private centers in mainland China.
Also do the same for your Chinese partner if he or she doesn’t have a passport. Giving your family the ability to travel at a moment’s notice could be a life-saving decision one day.
No matter where you’re living in the world, there will be some baby proofing steps you need to take inside your home. In China, there are some very specific precautions you might want to consider.
The air quality in China is notoriously bad, so it’s worth investing in multiple air purifiers, especially in the baby's room. Most people in China also live in apartments, and most of these apartments have balconies. Nowadays, they tend to come fitted with bars or mesh to stop people doing themselves a mischief, but some older apartments are not. Make sure there’s no way a curious toddler could wobble off.
Toddlers like to run, jump and, invariably, fall over. It's all part of growing up. In the West, this is less of an issue because most homes are at least partially carpeted. Here in China, however, it's all hard floors. A serious fall here could lead to a chipped tooth or worse, so invest in some baby gates and foam padding for the floor where the child is free to roam.
It’s very common in Chinese society for a set of grandparents to move in with a couple after they’ve had a baby, There are situations where this can't be avoided, such as when both parents work demanding full-time jobs and need the grandparents’ help, or where the grandparents are dependent on their child.
If you can, however, think twice before bringing the grandparents into your home on a full-time basis. The help they bring may be outweighed by the stress of an overcrowded household, potentially exacerbating any cultural differences that the couple would perhaps work through otherwise.
If you and your partner speak different native languages, you should have a plan for how you will communicate with your child. Ideally, you should talk to your child in your respective native languages. So if you’re a native English speaker, only speak English with your child. If your partner is a native Chinese speaker, they should only speak Chinese with them, regardless of your proficiency in the other language.
It’s also important to consider external factors that will affect your child’s language learning. What language will they hear most when around friends and family? What language will be spoken most at their kindergarten? Even consider what language is heard the most on television and with music at home. Factor these things into the balance you’re trying to strike.
Once decided, it’s important to stick to the plan. If the child starts to show a preference for speaking Chinese, it might be tempting for you to also speak Chinese for convenience sake. You should do your best to avoid this. Otherwise, the Chinese will grow at the expense of the English.
As a foreigner living in China, you’re probably used locals staring at you from time to time without any attempt to hide it. It’s simply something you learn to get use to. When people start to stare at your child, however, it can feel different and you may get protective.
It’s important to remember that, in almost all cases, the stares are not intended to be intimidating or rude. It’s just a bit of curiosity. Try not to take it too personally and don’t let the situation turn into something more serious than it needs to be. That being said, if strangers are taking photos of or bothering your child, it might be time to establish some boundaries in a composed and non-threatening manner.
China is overrun with kindergartens. It’s a country where few parents are able to take extended maternity or paternity leave, so children are more likely to go to kindergarten at an earlier age.
There are many nursery schools that are just there to grab a quick buck, however, so do some due diligence while you’re scouting out your neighborhood. Watch out for kindergartens that are more interested in discussing discount packages than the curriculum, those that are not interested in your child’s background, and those that insist in a large lump payment in upfront.
The urge to get your child into kindergarten can be strong, but take the time to find one that isn’t just about the money. Instead choose one that has a genuine interest in nurturing your child in this important developmental stage.
Have you had a child in China? Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced and overcome in the comments section below.
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