Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. —Galatians 6:11
From Bible times until now, personal letters have been much appreciated. It’s commonly said that letter-writing is a dying art, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Teach your children the joy of sending and receiving letters by helping them develop a pen pal relationship.
Find a Pen Pal
A pen pal relationship is a two-way street, so the first step is to find a correspondence buddy for your child. Relatives are a great place to start. Letters can help kids keep in touch with grandparents, aunts or uncles who live far away. Cousins of a similar age may also enjoy writing to one another.
Social media can be helpful for finding a pen pal. Toss out to your Facebook friends that you are looking for a child close in age to yours who would like to begin exchanging letters.
For a pen pal relationship with a humanitarian twist, consider sponsoring a needy child in another part of the world through a program such as Compassion International. Your family can send letters to your sponsored child, and you’ll receive letters back.
There are also websites dedicated to matching pen pals. If you go this route, select a program that’s designed especially for kids. Of course, children should only register for one of these programs with adult supervision.
Encourage Real Letters
Email is handy, but there’s something special for children about receiving letters addressed especially to them. Plus, sending real letters is an educational experience for kids, as they’ll learn proper letter format and how to address an envelope. Sure, using the Postal Service costs a few cents, but the payoffs are worth it.
Young children will need a lot of adult help in order to correspond with a pen pal. They may need help brainstorming topics, writing the letters and addressing the envelopes. In those cases, supervision is almost a given.
However, as your kids grow older, they’ll need less hand-holding in order to get a letter ready to mail. Don’t step out of the process entirely, however. Particularly if your child is corresponding with someone with whom you aren’t particularly familiar, it’s important to stay on top of what your child is sending and receiving.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you must read every letter, but your family should have a set of rules that guide your pen pal relationships. How that works in your family is up to you.
Set an Example
One way to get your children interested in the idea of a pen pal is to be a letter-writer yourself. Show kids that you enjoy sending and receiving personal mail. Keep a collection of attractive stationery and special writing implements on hand just for writing letters. Perhaps once a week or once a month, everyone could gather together for a scheduled writing session, during which you each craft a letter to your writing partner.
Consider a Family Journal
A family journal is an interesting twist on a pen pal relationship. One approach is a notebook that is shared between a parent and a child. The parent writes a note to the child. After reading it, the child writes a message back to the parent. Back-and-forth communication like this hones your child’s reading and writing skills and can be a powerful tool for increasing closeness in your relationship.
Another way to do a family journal is to make it a book that’s shared between extended family members. The journal starts with one branch of the family, whose members add their entries. The book is the mailed or delivered to another family group, who adds their thoughts and keeps it going to the next part of the family. When it arrives back at your house, you’ll read all the entries that have been added since you last had it and start your own new ones.
Help your kids become strong writers who understand the value of written communication. A pen pal relationship started early in life can be a treasured friendship for years to come.