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Updated: Apr 14, 2021

We discussed in our last blog how our mental health during lockdown has taken a hit. We’re all facing feelings of loneliness and isolation more intense than we may have ever experienced before. Fortunately, there are some ways to combat these. One big one is reminding your kids that there’s a global community out there, all of us experiencing the same thing. That’s right – we’re pushing for a return to good ol’ fashioned international pen pals. If your child has never had a pen pal, this can be especially good fun.

While pen pals have moved online these days, there are still options for plain handwriting. This can make the experience more life-like, and bring them a more intimate relationship with the global community. Additionally, this is a fantastic way to help them keep up their French. Around this time the goals we made at the end of 2020 are starting to seem distant. Revitalise your resolutions with international pen pals.

Pick a Country

Before going any further, you need to pick a country. Did you know there are 29 countries in the world with French as the official language? This is including, of course, our own beloved Canada! Here’s a list of the other countries in the world that speak French.

If you’ve chosen handwriting, and money is a concern, somewhere in Quebec could be a great option. However, try looking further afield. This is a wonderful opportunity for your child to learn more about another country. What do they normally eat for breakfast in Belgium? What’s school like in Monaco? What do kids do for fun in Guinea or Senegal?

With so many options, help your kid with a bit of research about each country so they can choose international pen pals that pique their interest most.

Choose a Schedule

Decide how often your child wants to write. This may also help you decide which country to choose. The closer the country, the quicker the communication (for snail mail).

Also make sure you don’t choose something that will be overwhelming or conflict with already difficult to manage online learning schedules. Of course this schedule can be flexible. If your child decides they want to write to their international pen pals more often than you decided, that’s okay! The more often they write, the more practice they get.

Find International Pen Pals

Now for the hard part – or so you may think! Finding international pen pals isn’t as difficult as it used to be. The internet has opened doors for global communication, even if you don’t choose online letters as your method. There are various websites that will help you find international pen pals in safe and effective ways.

International Pen Friends

One such site is International Pen Friends (IPF). Their website asserts that “Letter-writing provides a way to communicate with people in words and thoughts that will last for generations.”

IPF offers different levels for international pen pals so that your child is connected to someone within their own age group. Here you’ll find full details about these age groups and how many applicants are allowed in each one. For instance, if you just have one kid who wants a pen pal, you’ll receive a list of 10 names and addresses for your child to choose from.

All you need to do is apply. This service costs $25USD for one applicant aged 8-14, $35USD for two in the same age group, $30USD for one applicant aged 15-20, or $40USD for two.

Global Penfriends

Global Penfriends offers free sign up and lets you search for your child’s next pen pal. Many of these are teenagers and adults, however, so it’s better for use for your teen kids. If you’re struggling to find a penpal on their free site, you can upgrade to premium.

Global Penfriends offers instant messaging, but many members will opt for snail mail. Reviews on the site boast about the variety and options for finding friends around the world. Members range in age and interest, which means you should be able to find one to suit your child.

PenPal World

PenPal World is another site that you can register for without costing you a dime. Again, this site provides the choice for snail mail so that your kids can practice their handwriting and postal abilities, while expanding their community.

PenPal World also offers you a bit more control. The website allows children’s profiles to block all adults, to grant you peace of mind. It also offers a quick and easy reporting system for inappropriate messages or cyberbullying.

Reduce Risk

We’d like to think that everyone who is on these sites is friendly, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Using postal mail may help to reduce the risk of bullying or inappropriate messages, and is certainly the option we’d recommend.

However, if you opt for online international pen pals, make sure you’ve alerted your child to the risks and that they can block and report anyone who is harassing them. Sadly, bullying has moved from the playground to the online platform. But this can be dealt with easier by using the blocking tools available.

What’s most important is that your child has fun. This can also be a great bonding experience for you with younger children. Help them write their letters and come up with questions to ask so they can learn about other cultures.

Have you used any of these sites? Or perhaps a different one? Let us know what your experience has been and share it with other students of FranceABC!

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