Parisian Living

Parenting in Paris: The Challenges of Raising Teenagers in France

by Sylvia Sabes
Written By

Sylvia Sabes

When not hitting the ol’ cobblestones hunting down the hottest new addresses for her job as Paris Expert for Afar magazine and Luxe City Guides, Sylvia pretends to be swamped disguised as a wife and mom. You can read more of her work at (link below) or follow her adventures on FB @SylviaDublanc View Sylvia Sabes's Website

8 comments on “Parenting in Paris: The Challenges of Raising Teenagers in France

Wow! Sylvia,

You have been so helpful! I truly appreciate your honesty in your feedback! So, would your suggestion be to find a good private school like Jeannine Manuel be my best option?


HI Nicole,
I do not know specifically about immersion schools. I know many families who have had their children in public schools. Culturally, it is VERY different from the US. For example, in the US, there are bonus points and it is possible to do better than 100% Kids are encouraged to excel. In France they are graded on a scale of 1-20. Getting a 14 on the French BAC is considered an exceptional grade. I know the BAC is for high school students, but even in kindergarten, 20s are virtually unheard of. As a result, American kids and their parents often come here and find the adjustment very difficult. I recently advised an American family who was very confident the adjustment would be easy for their daughter because she and the Dad were fluent in French. They lasted until Jan before he called requesting assistance because their daughter could not understand the French way of doing math. I am not trying to discourage you. It is definitely doable, people immigrate to France every day. But I would be doing you a disservice if I led you to believe it was easy.
I believe you will have to put your children who are 14 & 11 in an immersion program in the public school system. It is my understanding that you can not select the school your children are sent to in this case. I am sure that if you lived near a school that had an immersion program, you could get your kids in it, but I have no idea how to find the immersion programs.
For your child who is 7, I can not help, as my situation was very different.
You may want to contact Message, a group for anglo speaking parents here in Paris. I know many of their members have kids in the public school system.
Hope that helps!

Merci beaucoup Sylvia!

Unfortunately, a school like Jeannine Manuel is not affordable for me. I added up the costs for one year and it is about $30,000! Do you know anything about the immersion schools, are they good, do the kids fare well there? Can I chose the school I would like my children to go to, for example, Balzac or is it determined by the district in which I live?


Bonjour Nicole,
Balzac is a public middle/high school in the 17th with an international program. There is a similar school in St Cloud. For your elementary school children, Paris is a very cosmopolitan city with the children of foreign parents in every quartier.
It is my understanding that if your children do not speak any French, they will be put into an immersion program to get them up to speed. In this case, you do not choose the school, it is assigned by the Mairie and it may or may not be near your home.
Culturally, the immersion is very challenging for kids and even more challenging for their parents. If you’d like a gentler transition, I’d recommend looking into Jeannine Manuel, a private school with an immersion program for the kids and alot of ressources for their adults.
Hope that helps. Don’t hesitate to ask, should you have further questions.

I read in the blog above, “Even in my daughters’ public school, which is located in a very traditional, French-Catholic part of the city, about half the teens in her school were at least bilingual.” what part of Paris is this? I am seeking public schools for my daughters (14, 11 & 7) and I would love for them to be in a school with other non native french speakers, so that they do not feel so isolated. What are some public schools that anyone would recommend for an American kids who speak absolutely no French. Also, unfortunately, I cannot enroll them in french immersion classes, because I live in the south and I can barely find french classes for children.

Fly Girl, Go for you for sticking to your rules! Not always easy when your name is Mom. Bon courage!

I totally get where all those gray hairs are coming from! I’m raising a teen girl in the U.S. and all the temptations and stresses are there. I agree, n unsupervised trip for teens is a risky affair but my daughter has friends who are allowed to do it as well. She will not, however.

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