Finding the words to say: writing to your sponsored child during COVID-19
It happened so fast. In just a few days, life went from being normal to completely insular as the world stopped to try and contain the spread of COVID-19. As an extrovert who lives on their own, I immediately went into panic mode, wondering how I was going to stay sane as well as connected to all the people I loved during this time.
So I started writing letters to friends and family… not emails, but snail mail letters that included my most recent ponderings about this strange new world, a few poorly drawn portraits of their pet (why not?), anything that would make them smile and reminds them that even in this strangest of times, I am thinking of them.
But I found one letter very hard to write – the letter to my sponsored child. Should I even mention COVID-19? How could I even begin to imagine what this would look or feel like for her and her family? Was she currently facing the challenge of home school like kids in my country? Was her mum or dad instantly juggling full-time work and the education of their kids, too? Did her parents still have work? Most of all, I didn’t want to talk about how I was struggling, even though I was. Suddenly, this extrovert was sent into a state of paralysis. All I had to do was pen a few sentences, but I had nothing.
But I don’t like to be beaten, so I pushed through and made myself write something. After all, in times of stress, challenge or loneliness, a kind word or two can turn a day around, share love or instil hope.
In the process, I discovered four beautifully simple things.
1. COVID-19 is uncharted territory for both of us.
Regardless of whether her family is in lockdown or not, or if they are being encouraged to stay home like I am, this is the first time in our lifetimes that the world has experienced such a phenomenon. We are both living in a time of huge uncertainty, and acknowledging it can connect us. In fact, this is the first time we have found ourselves facing the same crisis at the same time, with a lot in common. When does that ever happen? So, I started by sharing the fact that the world was united in a new, strange way.
2. She probably knows as little about my COVID-19 situation, as I do about hers.
I realised that she might have lots of questions about my life right now, too. I would no doubt have more access to news and media, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be curious or asking questions from adult conversations all around her about COVID-19. As always with my letters, I kept things simple. I told her that I used to work in a big tall office, catch a train to get there and share lunch with my friends. Now, I was at home with a cat as a co-worker and I was trying out new recipes to occupy the time.
3. COVID-19 doesn’t have to be the sole topic of the conversation
As much as it feels like it’s the only thing we are talking about right now – all the other questions and conversations we’ve had in previous letters still exist! Checking in on how those school exams went, asking how her soccer form was coming along or how her little brother was doing was still ok. She might even like it more.
4. Jokes are always a good idea
Ok, this is not a new discovery but it’s a solid strategy when talking to kids. The science says laughing is good for us (it releases endorphins and serotonin, fosters brain connectivity, and is even good for your physical heart) and it can lighten the mood and bring us together – two things we can all use right now. So that’s what I did… I ended with this: Why did the banana go to the doctor? He wasn't peeling well. (If jokes are not your style, you could share an uplifting thought, quote, poem or verse).
Before I realised it, the letter was done. It was short, simple but heartfelt. In a world of uncertainty for everyone, I hope these words of kindness, friendship and connection are uplifting to my sponsor child and help her and her family know that we’ll all get through this, together.
Write an e-letter to your sponsored child today! Depending on the context it may take longer to be delivered, but rest assured that it will be, and you’ll get a reply as soon as it’s safe to do so.