Getting a Pen Pal

Though the mail system is outdated now, thanks to the rise of many new technologies, there's still not much equal to the thrill of receiving a real, physical letter from someone you know.  Getting a pen pal can take a little work -- at least, finding someone who will consistently write you back can -- but it's very much worth it.  Whether you just help your children find pen pals or whether you write to someone as a family, this process can be frugal fun for you and your little ones.

Opening a mail.

If you have relatives or close family friends who live far away and with whom you don't keep a lot of phone or face-to-face contact, writing to them as a pen pal could be a great way to stay in touch.  Someone you know is great for a pen pal relationship because you already know many of the things you would normally have to hash out at first with a stranger, and you can go straight to writing the important stuff.  Or, on the other hand, if your children just want to write about their favorite zoo exhibit, your loved one will indulge them.

If you don't have people you know living far away, you can try out one of these helpful websites to track down a suitable pen pal:

- -- this is for more instant communication, but you will have a secure, safe experience on this site (or so they say).  There is even a function to report receiving an inappropriate message.

- -- looking for a snail mail pen pal?  Search the lists provided by this website.

- -- another good site for finding people who either want to exchange instant communication or snail mail.

- -- a safe site for finding a pen pal for your child.

Not sure what to start writing about or how to continue the conversation?  Here are some pointers:

-     Family and pets are pretty universal topics you can bring up.

-     If writing to someone in a country where they may be underprivileged, try not to gloat about possessions and other material things.

-    With pen pals who are in the same culture, you can write about hobbies, pop culture interests, and favorite activities.

Here are a few safety tips:

-    Talk about your life without being too specific, if you're conversing with a stranger.  Let your child mention school, but don't give out names or addresses.

-    Use a post office box, if you have one or know someone who is willing to let you use it for pen pal letters, so that you're not giving away confidential information.

-     Don't send anything that you aren't willing to give up forever!  That means you should send copies of pictures, not the originals.

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