Fujianese Immigrants Struggle to Raise Satellite Babies

The New York Parenting Association helps parents and children foster close relationships by organizing events. (Photo courtesy of the Association via World Journal)

The New York Parenting Association helps parents and children foster close relationships by organizing events. (Photo courtesy of the Association via World Journal)

[The following translation on “satellite babies” born to Chinese parents, particularly from Fujian province, combines two stories from World Journal. In one story by Yiyi Huang, a mother in Brooklyn describes the challenges she faced raising a child who initially grew up in China, and the organization she founded to help other parents in the same situation. In another story, Huang speaks to teachers at a school in Sunset Park where the majority of the students are satellite babies.]

Nicole Huang, a Chinese mother who lives in Brooklyn, sent her son back to China to be taken care of by his grandparents when he was a few months old. But when she brought him back to the U.S. for school, Nicole found her son showed some deviations in his behavior. He was insecure and sometimes even attacked other people. He only gradually recovered after weekly psychological counseling over the past five years. Realizing that many new immigrant parents and their “satellite babies” have encountered the same problems, Huang founded the New York Parenting Association where parents can discuss the challenges they face, share information on relatives and help one another to raise their “satellite babies.”

Arriving in the U.S. from Fuzhou, China, when she was 19, Huang said she had no other choice when she sent her son back to his grandparents. She said hers was similar to the experience of many other immigrants from Fuzhou whose life routes follow the pattern of dating someone introduced by family or friends, getting married, having babies, sending them back to China and then bringing them back to the U.S. once they reach school age.

“Many immigrants from Fuzhou came here via smuggling. With the enormous pressure of paying off the debt accumulated from the smuggling fee, their priority is to make money,” said Huang. “They consider having children as their obligation but rarely think about when the best time is to have children. They think sending their children back to their parents in China is a no-brainer. After all, everyone else is doing the same.”


[A translation of the story about Sunset Park follows.]

P.S. 69 in Sunset Park is an exemplar of the phenomenon of “satellite babies” in the Fujianese community. Eighty percent of the students at the school are Chinese and the majority are from Fujianese immigrant families. Xiuyi Chan and Lina Zhou, Chinese teachers who have been working at the school for many years, said in recent years many children who were sent back to China as babies have displayed various problems at school. “Usually there are 32 students in a class, and 90 percent had been sent back to China before,” the teachers said.

They don’t support the choice of these parents. They said about 10 years ago, the school started to see many “satellite babies.” These children often don’t know how to communicate with others. They are more likely to be selfish, callous, not willing to share and ignorant of the behavior code of the school.

More seriously, they don’t even know the concepts of some simple Chinese words. This affects their study greatly and worries the teachers the most. “For example, their vocabulary for food and clothes tends to be limited only to rudimentary categories. They don’t know the words ‘sweater’ and ‘coat’ and just simply call them ‘winter clothes.’ So it’s hard for them to match the newly learned English words with the Chinese words in their existing knowledge system,” said the teachers.

What’s more, many parents don’t realize how serious the problems are. The lack of intervention can lead to worsening circumstances for the child as he or she grows older. “The absence of emotional support, when the children is struggling academically, could drive him or her to attempt to attract attention by extreme behaviors such as fighting or getting close to bad influences in the broader society, and even committing crimes,” the teachers said. “These problems are like a chain in which one ring leads to another.”


[The first story resumes below.]

Huang observed some of these problems in her son when he came back to the U.S. at 3. At first, she thought he was just being naughty until one day he attacked other children at school and the school suggested providing him an IEP (individualized education program). Huang didn’t understand an IEP meant additional assistance for her son and declined the offer. The school considered this as neglecting a child’s medical needs and reported it to the Administration for Children’s Services. The visit from the ACS brought Huang a lot of trouble. But it also helped her understand that there are a lot of things in children’s education that she knew nothing about. She realized the child’s odd behavior may have been caused by his experience of being sent back to China.

Huang said Chinese grandparents often like to spoil the children. And (when it comes to the Fujianese) the grandparents often feel a little guilty for encouraging their own children to go to the U.S. when they were young. So they try to make it up with the grandchildren by allowing them to do whatever they like. In addition, when a child is young, it’s the most important time to build the parent-child relationship. The lack of such cultivation is harmful in itself to the child. And the emotional attachment between the child and the grandparents are severed when he or she comes back to the U.S. Thus the children are hurt a second time.

After Huang understood this, she started to attend various workshops about parenting to gain more knowledge. She also became a volunteer at her son’s school to strengthen her relationship with her child. She takes her son to counseling every week. The child’s situation is getting better and better.

Huang also started the parenting association which offers workshops and other activities to teach parents how to educate their children and build healthy connections with them. In the year since its inception, the organization has attracted 700 members. “I hope the parents who are struggling just like I was can realize that it’s not helpful to discipline the children by simply punishing them. We parents should keep learning in order to help our kids to grow up healthily,” said Huang.

Parents who are interested in joining the organization can add the public account NY-PCR on WeChat.

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