In this season, you might find yourself wondering about the safety and health of the child you sponsor. Maybe you’re longing to communicate with them—ask how they’re doing, tell them that you’re praying for them. These are great questions to be asking. They reveal your heart for children in poverty, which gives us so much hope!
That’s why we thought we’d share a few tips for writing letters to your sponsored child during a crisis.
Writing to your sponsored child during a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, requires a little extra thoughtfulness and sensitivity. This pandemic is a brand-new challenge for our world, but crises are not.
Below, you’ll find some tips on how to ask your sponsored child appropriate questions about a crisis, how to be sensitive to the situation, how to encourage them and how to pray through the season.
But first, you might be wondering if your letters will be delayed.
During the temporary closure of most of our national offices and the pausing of group activities at most of Compassion centres, the delivery of letters between children and sponsors will be delayed. We encourage you to continue to write letters of encouragement and prayers—they will be a huge gift once your sponsored child can receive them. But please be aware that it will take longer for your letters to be delivered, and your sponsored child will likely not be able to write back until centres are reopened.
If you have any other questions about how COVID-19 is affecting Compassion’s ministry, check out our COVID-19 Updates page.
Letter-writing tips for health crises
COVID-19 is a unique health crisis affecting the whole world. However, there are many other types of health crises that regularly take place—crises that people living in poverty are especially vulnerable to. For example, in the last year, there have been outbreaks of dengue, Ebola and other viruses in countries where Compassion works. Health crises happen, and it’s especially important that we know how to talk to our sponsored children about them in this season.
To protect the privacy of the child and their family, keep all health-related questions high level. Don’t ask for specifics. If your sponsored child is facing a health crisis, here are a few questions you could ask:
- How has your family been doing lately?
- Have you been learning hand-washing tips? What has that been like?
- Have there been any recent changes in your community?
There’s no need to be afraid to write about a health crisis like COVID-19 in your letters, but it is incredibly important to know how to talk about it appropriately. Child protection and privacy is very critical, so we suggest that you do not ask directly about the ways your sponsored child or their family have been affected. However, there are a few ways you can sensitively write about a health crisis:
- With a health crisis that you can understand or relate to—like COVID-19—feel free to share about your experience. How has your family been doing? How are you feeling? This might make your child feel safe enough to share more openly about his or her experience.
- Remind your sponsored child that you are praying for them during this health crisis. Write out your specific prayers for their health and safety.
- If your sponsored child chooses to share openly about illness or loss, then it is appropriate to address the issue and its effect on them directly.
If your sponsored child shares about an illness or health crisis, share a story about a time you were sick and recovered. Remind them that God is the Great Physician. Infuse your letters with hope!
Tell your sponsored child that you are praying for their healing or their family’s healing. Remind them that you regularly pray for them—especially throughout this crisis.
Letter-writing tips for family crises
Family-related crises can be especially traumatic. The loss of a loved one, the loss of a home, the separation of parents—none of these are easy. Most of us, including children living in poverty, will experience family crises in our lives. For some of you, a crisis like this might have happened recently. If you or a loved one are dealing with illness, job loss or even death in this season, please know that our hearts break for you. We are praying for you. It’s so important that we care for each other well in this season. And, that’s why it’s more important now than ever to know how to talk about family crises in your letters.
If your sponsored child has recently experienced a family crisis, ask questions like:
- How have you been doing lately?
- Have you been able to talk to someone at your centre about your recent loss?
- How can I be praying for you and your family in this season?
Like other types of crises, do not ask directly about the loss unless your sponsored child has shared about it with you. Respecting their privacy is important. But if you do know about a recent loss in the family, here are a few key writing tips:
- Be gentle as you write. Think carefully about all your words. Ask yourself what kinds of questions you’d be comfortable answering during a family crisis.
- Ask about feelings, rather than experiences. This way, your sponsored child doesn’t have to write about recent, potentially traumatic experiences unless they choose to.
- Include your specific prayers for your sponsored child during their family crisis.
Tell your sponsored child that though you don’t know exactly what they are going through, you do know about pain and grief. Maybe even share an experience of your own, if you feel comfortable, as well as what helped you get through that time. Remind your child that they are not alone and that you are thinking of and praying for them often.
Let your sponsored child know that you are regularly praying for the specific family crisis they shared with you. Tell them that you are praying for their family members by name (if you know them).
Many of these letter-writing tips can be applied directly to the global COVID-19 crisis our world is facing right now. These are hard days. Please know that as Compassion staff, we are praying for you and your family.
We all need a little extra encouragement these days.
Visit My Compassion to write your sponsored child today!
Words by Katy Bennett, Compassion USA. This article was originally published on the Compassion International blog.