Developing a relationship with your sponsor child can be one of the most significant experiences of your life. It’s indescribably wonderful to learn about the special little person in your life and know that your love and support is giving him hope where otherwise it might not exist. As you see the progress your kid makes, receive their drawings in the mail, and learn all about their lives, you’ll fall in love.
Fostering this relationship is incredibly rewarding, but sometimes taking the first step is confusing. It can be difficult to know what to write a youngster, especially one that lives half way across the world, and especially one who lives a radically different life from your own. But don’t let feelings like these stop you from reaching out; your kid wants to know you! They’re curious about your family, your life, your culture, who you are and why you’ve come into their life. Writing and sending cards regularly can make a child feel valued and confident about themselves. The relationship you develop from regular correspondence will mean so much to each of you.
If you’re not quite sure where to start your letters, try using some of the ideas below to get your creative juices going.
Let’s get some logistics out of the way before getting into the fun stuff. Below you’ll find key guidelines to keeping your letters constructive.
- Keep letters short and simple. They will likely go through a translator for whom English is not a native language, so cut them a little slack!
- Avoid using slang. There won’t be a way to translate the fact that “you’re a 24/7 couch potato,” and likely your point will get lost.
- Avoid writing about material possessions or any other topic that might make your child feel self-conscious. For many kids, just finding drinking water is an accomplishment. The fact that you finally got a plasma TV to watch Game of Thrones in high definition might be lost on them.
- Always keep your message positive! Your child may have it rough; your letter should be like little rays of sunshine in their life.
What to Ask
Make sure to ask questions about your sponsor kid’s life. Besides the joy you’ll experience getting to know them, it will offer your child a chance to show off a little. Even better, it will help lessening the stress of writing you. For many kids this will be their first time writing a letter, and writing it to somebody from another country may be intimidating for them too! A child will find it much easier to start and maintain a dialog if you provide the material first.
Here are a few questions to get you started, just don’t ask too many at once so it’s not overwhelming!
- Do you have a favorite game?
- What do you do on a normal day?
- What’s your favorite way to spend an afternoon?
- What are your favorite holidays?
- What are your favorite subjects in school? (Know your child currently attends school before asking)
- What is your most challenging subject in school?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What are your chores at home?
- Do you have a favorite animal?
- Where is your favorite place to go?
- What is the weather like where you live?
- Which color do you like best?
- Who is your best friend?
- What is your favorite food?
- Who are the people that you live with?
- What are your favorite holidays? How do you celebrate them?
- Who is someone you admire?
Be sure to read up on your child’s country and community. Get to know holidays, cultural facts, history, geography and climate, even learn a few basic words in their language. It will help you craft questions of your own but -even cooler- it will be absolutely fascinating and will definitely help you feel closer to your sponsor kid!
What to Tell
Your sponsor kid is curious about you too. Chances are your life is very different from theirs and will offer a real learning experience. Here are a few ideas to help you share information about yourself so that your child can get to know you better. I guarantee they'll be telling their friends and family all about your customs and stories!
- Tell them what you do on a normal day.
- Talk about the games and activities you enjoy.
- Tell them about your family members or the people you live with.
- Explain your favorite holidays and how you like to celebrate. (Downplay the material aspects and focus on simple traditions. This will be more meaningful for your child and easier to understand.)
- Tell them what your favorite subjects in school are/were. Education will be important in your kids’ life and something they’ll enjoy sharing with you.
- Give a simple description of the landscape you see outside of your window, make it feel like your sponsor child is visiting you in your foreign homeland!
- Describe your favorite tree or flower. Many children come from agricultural areas and can easily relate to the flora and fauna of your home. Conversely, your flashy new sports car might not encourage a common bond.
- Tell them about your favorite hobby. Whether you write stories, read books or collect stamps, it will help your child feel closer to you.
- Write about the terrain, climate and people where you live. These visuals will make your child feel connected to your world.
- Discuss a person who had a positive impact on you.
- Describe your favorite season. The weather patterns in your area might differ vastly from where your child lives and a description may offer a totally new experience.
- Tell a funny family story. Your child will relish knowing the lighter side of your life.
- Describe where you work and what you do.
- Talk about your chores at home. It may seem boring to you, but your sponsor kid likely has household duties too and this is something they’ll be able to easily understand and relate to.
- Describe how you overcame a challenge or met a goal in life. (You will serve as an important role model in your child’s life, live up to it!)
- Talk about something at which you've worked hard: at school, work or in life.
- Give small random facts about yourself: your favorite color, flower, or animal; your birthday; your age. These little tidbits easily translate across cultures and will help your child feel closer to you.
Above all else, make your child feel loved and important! Be sure to incorporate the following ideas into your letters to let your child know you value them.
- Ask your child to pray for you. It will make her feel like she can do something for you in return for all you’ve done for her. But be sure not to ask for anything big or scary, your kid has enough to worry about! Instead ask for prayers about acing a test, accomplishing a project or healing a broken finger.
- Express what a privilege it is to be your child’s sponsor.
- Mention specific items your child has written about and praise their accomplishments!
- Comment on any progress they’ve made at school, in an activity or in their letter writing. Even saying “your drawing was very pretty” or “you must be very good at futbal” will boost your child’s self esteem and remind them somebody cares.
- Explain how your family includes them in daily life. Is his picture hanging up? Do you pray for her? Do you think about him when you see a certain object or landscape? Let you child know that their a part of your life.
Remember, the more you and your sponsored child learn about each other, the easier it will become to develop a friendship. And when you see the positive changes you’re making in your child’s life, that friendship will become one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve ever have. So keep those letter flowing and see where it takes you!
Do you a tried and true topic of your own to share with other sponsors? Be sure to add any of your own ideas in the comments section below!