By: Abby Ryckman   |   Posted: April 14, 2022

Here are the top ways materialism can end up in our letters to the children we sponsor — and what to write about instead.

What To Avoid in Letter Writing: Materialism

Here are the top ways materialism can end up in our letters to the children we sponsor — and what to write about instead.

Written by Abby Ryckman
Shalom sits on his doorstep holding a letter from his sponsor

Materialism. It’s a loaded word. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as materialistic. We associate materialism with superficial or extraordinarily wealthy people. But we don’t have to be any of those things for materialism to sneak into the letters we write to our sponsored children.

It’s easy to bring attention to the contrast in material situations accidentally. The goal is to make sure the child you sponsor does not feel the disparity between their situation and yours, which could cause jealousy or other negative emotions.

Here are the top ways materialism can end up in our letters and how to avoid it.


Our homes are a major part of our lives and an extension of our creativity. So it’s not uncommon to share pictures of our homes with friends or online or to include them as a backdrop in pictures of our families.

Naning’oi stands in front of her house

Sharing our home is sharing a part of ourselves. It’s only natural to want to include it in pictures for our sponsored child. And that can be OK. Here are a few guidelines to make sure you’re sharing your home in the most beneficial way possible.

  1. Use caution in showing the exterior of a house as the subject of the photo or the backdrop to one. Unlike pictures taken inside, exterior pictures of houses show their size, and that can often differ dramatically from the conditions of your sponsored child’s home. It can be especially tempting to send a picture of your house if you recently moved in or if it’s your first house, but we recommend avoiding this. Also avoid showing pools, hot tubs or new tool sheds.
  2. Try to avoid pictures of the interior of your home that include staircases, high chandeliers or light fixtures or any particularly valuable possessions in the background. The goal here is to avoid contrast in the sizes of the homes or in the number or quality of possessions. Thankfully, there are many ways to take pictures inside that only reveal parts of your home.

Try this: Share pictures of your garden, a tree your kids like to climb or your pets. You can describe games you play outside with your family, share how long you’ve lived in your house or mention your favorite part about living in your city.

Ask: What do you like about your home? Whom do you share your home with? What games do you enjoy playing with your friends? Can you swim? What are the seasons like in your country?


Transportation is a major part of life no matter where you live. Not all forms of transportation are inappropriate to share with sponsored children. They have most likely seen a wide variety of vehicles as well. So what’s not OK to share?

  1. Avoid pictures that show off new vehicles. A new car, motorcycle or RV makes for exciting news to share among friends and family. But try to withhold that information from the child you sponsor.
  2. Use discretion when it comes to showing pictures of other vehicles. Photos of your teenage daughter learning to drive or with her own vehicle could cause jealousy since your sponsored teenager likely cannot afford or car and may not get the opportunity to learn to drive.
  3. Try this: Share about places you like to visit, how long your commute to work is and other forms of transportation in your life, like riding your bike to a coffee shop or walking down the block to visit a friend.

    Ask: Where is your favorite place? How often do you go there? What do you like about it? How do you get there?

Bithi sits on a motorcycle with her parents


Holidays can be a fun topic to share about in letters. It’s likely that the child you sponsor celebrates many of the holidays you do. Every child in the program even receives a gift at Christmas. So sharing about holiday celebrations is totally fine (and encouraged), but here are a few quick guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Gifts. It’s OK to share about a gift you received or plan to give for a particular celebration. But avoid pictures of Christmas trees laden with gifts or a pile of gifts as tall as your daughter at her birthday party. Don’t include photos or descriptions of particularly expensive gifts such as jewelry, airline tickets, vehicles or designer bags.
  2. Food. Sharing about food is a way for your sponsored child and you to share culture, memories, daily life and traditions with each other. However, avoid pictures of excess food. This can include a spread on a Thanksgiving table, a barbecue or a buffet.

Try this: Share whom you celebrate holidays with, what your favorite holiday tradition is, a memory of your aunt teaching you how to cook turkey for Thanksgiving, etc.

Ask: What is your favorite holiday? Why is it your favorite? Do you celebrate [approaching holiday]?


It’s OK to write about trips in your letters. You can share new memories, updated pictures of you family and beautiful pictures of local nature or wildlife you experienced on your trip. Just be cautious about some details.

  1. Frequent trips. Perhaps you travel a lot for your job or for fun. If you are a frequent traveler, consider leaving some trips out of your letters to your sponsored child. They may become discouraged that they do not get to travel like you do.
  2. Luxury locations or items from a vacation. Anniversary trips, graduation trips, etc. It’s OK to mention that you’re going on these trips, but just be careful not to send photos of anything that might otherwise call attention to the contrast of the situation compared with your sponsored child’s life.

Try this: Share about whether you prefer the country or city. Describe a funny story about your kids from vacation without mentioning where you were when it happened. Share about your delight in God’s creation and how you love to see the beach or rock formations — without going into too much detail about your recent vacation to see them.

Ask: Have you always lived where you do now? Do you prefer to spend time indoors or outdoors? What is your favorite part of nature where you live?


I know it’s easy to get bogged down by the don’ts. Reading a giant list of what not to include can feel paralyzing and lead you to hesitate to even start that next letter.

Please don’t be discouraged, though. Never underestimate the impact your letters could have on the child you sponsor. Letters are a way to make sure they feel noticed and loved. Letters remind them that they are valuable, thought of and interesting. For more inspiration and ideas on what to write, check out these resources: Sponsors Share Their Best Letter Writing Tips and 12 Ideas for Writing to the Child You Sponsor.

Write to the child you sponsor today!