When I first started sponsoring Vitoria, she was 5 years old. She drew me pictures of flowers and I sent her princess stickers. But then, before I knew it, she was a teenager. Gone were the crayon drawings and glittery stationery.
I could have mourned the loss of those sweet letters. But instead, I decided to embrace the new season Vitoria and I were entering. I fumbled through a year of letters until we finally figured out our new rhythm. She told me about her dreams. What she wanted to be when she grew up.
I watched Vitoria grow up through those letters. And I’m so glad I didn’t give up until that very last letter I wrote Vitoria two years ago when she graduated from the Compassion program.
I want to help you not give up. No matter what age of the child you sponsor, we’ve got some ideas for you to make letter-writing just a little easier! Just scroll down to the right age and start writing!
What do you say to a toddler?
- When you sponsor a toddler, your letters are primarily to his or her caregiver.
- Ask the child you sponsor’s parents about their life. What job do they have? What is their home like? Tell them about your neighborhood and daily life.
- Ask the parents about their child. What is his personality like? What’s her favorite food?
- How can you pray for the family? Follow up when they give you specific prayer requests.
- Share about your family and send family photos – from one family to another!
What do you say to a school-age child?
Starting school is exciting for a child — and it opens doors for new kinds of letters! The challenge is that “school-age” is represented by children of varying ages and needs. For example, a 5-year-old interacts with letters differently than a 12-year-old. Here’s how to write different school-age-appropriate letters:
5 to 7 Years Old
- Kids at this age are beginning school. They are just learning to read and write, so their letters might be simpler. Make sure to ask lots of good questions that they can answer easily and directly!
- Ask him his favorite subject and share what your favorite class was in school. Let her know you’re praying for her studies.
- Kids love the weather! Don’t ask us why! Tell the child you sponsor about the weather where you live – even better if you can send a picture of your family enjoying the snow – or the beach!
- Do you have pets? Did you have any when you were their age? Kids love animals too (and pictures of them!).
- Tell the child you sponsor about your family — your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. And make sure you ask about his or her family too. Let them know you’re praying!
8 to 12 Years Old
- This group of children has now been in school for a few years. They have learned a lot and are more confident communicators. Now you can start asking slightly more complex questions!
- School is a big part of life. Ask him about what he likes most about school. Also find out what parts of school are most difficult for her. This is an important age to be writing letters — studies show that children who receive letters are more likely to do better in school.
- What are your friends like? What do you like to do together? School-age children are starting to develop meaningful friendships — make sure to ask about them!
- Kids at this age are starting to discover their talents, hobbies and passions. Ask about them! What is your favorite hobby? How do you like to spend your free time? What are some things you’re really good at? You can share about your favorite hobbies too.
What do you say to a teenager?
- The youth you sponsor is thinking about his or her future, a lot! Tell them about what you do for a living and ask what they want to do when they grow up, and make sure you encourage them in that dream!
- This is the key time to let him or her know you’re praying for them. There’s a lot of pressure to drop out of school and work – be his or her biggest cheerleader!
- Ask about his or her studies, and encourage them in their education. Tell them about the things you loved about school – share your struggles too so they feel “normal” in what they’re experiencing.
- Maybe you’ve amassed a lot of letters from him or her by now – when you can, look up recent letters in My Account and reference people and places they’ve mentioned so they know you’re interested in their life!
What do you say to a young adult?
- Keep being a cheerleader! Encourage him or her in their studies, their vocational training, and pursuing their dreams.
- Continue to share verses, reminding the young adult you sponsor that God has a plan and a purpose for them. Tell them about verses that have impacted you in your own walk.
- Young adults probably ask more questions in their letters – make sure you take a look at their last note and answer any questions they may have had for you. (Don’t forget you can look at recent letters in My Account!)
- Keep sending photos – they like seeing your family grow and change!
- In these last years of sponsorship, you have the opportunity to speak words of encouragement and hope – what a privilege for you as a sponsor!
Want to learn more about great letter writing? For more understanding on what is appropriate and not appropriate to share in your letters, check out the blog, “What Can I Share in Letters to the Child I Sponsor?” Or read “40 Questions to Ask in Your Letters for Every Season of the Year” for even more unique question-asking ideas!
A version of this article was originally published on September 19, 2017.