Pen Pal Program
The Hydrocephalus Association’s Pen pal program is designed to support kids ages 7- 12.
Pen Pal Program
The Hydrocephalus Association’s Pen pal program is designed to support kids ages 7-12 in finding real and lasting friendships with others that understand the journey with hydrocephalus. Being and having a Pen pal can help your child develop a sense of connection and genuine friendship. If your child is over the age of 12 and would like to participate, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a Pen pal?
Simply stated, a pen pal is a “pen friend”. Having or becoming a pen friend means connecting with someone similar to you as a person but you might have never met them. Pen pals write letters to one another that share about who they are, what they like to do, and fun facts about themselves. The best benefit of being a pen pal (pen friend) is having the opportunity to create true and lasting friendships!
How does a Pen Pal program work?
The program is fun and easy! Here’s what to expect:
- You will sign up your child by clicking on the “Need a Pen Pal” button on the top of the page.
- When your child’s request is received we will immediately start working on connecting him/her to a pen pal.
- Your child will be matched with a pen pal volunteer based upon age, interest, and similarities in their journey with hydrocephalus.
- When a pen pal volunteer match has been selected, the parent will be notified via email outlining next steps.
- You and your child will have the option to either email or write a physical letter to be mailed via the postal service to the assigned pen pal.
- Parents of the pen pals will be initially connected via email to ensure the child’s safety and to discuss preferred methods of communication.
- Your child can begin writing his/her pen pal!
The choice between Snail Mail or Email
The big question on your mind is - do you allow your child to email or send letters via the postal service? This is a conversation you should have with your child but ultimately the final decision should be based on your comfort level. Handwritten letters can feel special and have a personal touch which can add an extra layer of excitement as it comes in the mail. While an email can certainly be quicker and easier. Not to mention that an email has no cost attached! But, there is a way to bring them both together so that your child gets the best of both options. “You can have your child write a letter, then scan and send it via email. You can also print out emails from your child’s pen pal”. Ultimately, it is all about what works best for you, your child, and your family.
Letters to Your Child’s Pen Pal (What Should Your Child Write?)
You and your child are excited because he/she now has a pen pal but you are not sure how to get them started. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think! We have created a letter template, to help you and your child get started. If you choose not to use the template, below are some ideas you can encourage your child to write about:
- In your child’s first letter, have him/her introduce themselves by sharing their name, state/country they live in, what their family is like, and interests.
- Sharing of your child's fondest memory is another great topic to cover in the next letter.
- To keep the conversation going, encourage your child to share about his/her day.
- Creating “top 5” lists is another simple idea. Keep it fun and engaging to maintain your child’s motivation. If your child is only writing one or two word answers when responding, that’s okay. To nurture developing writing skills, work up to having him or her write out a complete sentence. (Direct quoted from Playful Pen pal Project, Here)
Note: Don’t forget to encourage your child to ask their pen pal similar questions to what they have shared in their letter.
Ideas to Make the Pen Pal Journey Fun
Penpalling can be very exciting! Below are some fun questions to get your child writing:
About Your Week Questions
- What was something fun you did this week?
- Did you go visit anyone this week?
- Did anyone come to visit your house this week?
- Do you have any exciting stories to tell from the past week?
- How many siblings do you have? Are they older or younger?
- How do you like being a big brother/sister or little brother/sister?
- What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
- If you have pets, how many do you have and what are the name(s) of your pet(s)?
Note: Check out the letter template!
Your child’s safety is our top priority. While we do our best to screen every parent and child volunteer, we encourage parents to remain involved in all communication. Parents who have make the decision to allow their child to participate in the pen pal program, through email or snail mail, should adhere to the following safety tips (this is not a comprehensive list of tips):
- Parents should read over all pen pal communications.
- Ensure your child does not ever agree to meeting a pen pal without you being present.
- Ensure your child does not share computer or internet account passwords with the pen pal.
- Rude and inappropriate messages should be immediately brought to the attention of a responsible adult as well as shared with the Support Programs Manager at the Hydrocephalus Association.
Parent Consent Form/Statement
A parent or guardian must provide consent before their child can participate in HA’s Pen Pal Program. Both, parent and child, must agree to adhere to established guidelines and safety suggestions. The parent will have the opportunity to sign the consent and release statement.