By: Catherine Ryan   |   Posted: January 25, 2023

Learn what it means to overshare and get tips for avoiding it when you write to the child you sponsor.

What to Avoid in Letters: Oversharing

Learn what it means to overshare and get tips for avoiding it when you write to the child you sponsor.

Written by Catherine Ryan
Photography by Eric D. Lema, Piyamary Shinoda and Alejandra Zuniga
2 boys sit outside of their school

Do you remember your favorite book as a kid? Mine was about a young girl who was stranded on a deserted island. I loved reading about how she built a shelter and found food to survive. Her way of life seemed so different from my own. That’s the power of books, right? They open doors to new places and experiences.

Well, guess what? Your letters do the same!

The children you sponsor are eager to learn about your life.

They want to know the same things I enjoyed reading about in my childhood book — where you live, what you eat and how you spend your days. They even like to hear about the weather! And since access to books and the internet may be limited in your child’s community, your letters may be the best insight your sponsored child has into another culture.

But just as books should be age-appropriate for their readers, your letters should be appropriate for your sponsored child. It’s important not to overshare.

What Does It Mean To Overshare?

Oversharing means revealing too many intimate details about your personal life. Have you ever heard the acronym TMI? That’s what you want to avoid: “Too Much Information!”

Avoiding oversharing in your letters also means staying away from certain topics altogether. Make sure the topics you discuss are appropriate for your child’s age and interests. If you think a topic might make them feel uncomfortable, it’s best to avoid it.

As a general rule, before you write, consider how you would feel if another adult (whom you’ve never met) was discussing that topic with your own child or a child you’re close to.

At the end of the day, some conversations are best left for a parent or guardian. To ensure we respect that parental relationship, letters that “overshare” or that share inappropriate content will not be delivered. And we certainly don’t want that!

Guidance To Avoid Oversharing

two boys smile and whisper to each other

We want to help ensure your sponsored child gets the most from your letters. By staying clear of these topics, you’ll foster healthy, positive discussions that will bless both you and the child you sponsor!

Don’t share contact details.

For your safety and that of the child you sponsor, please don’t share private contact details such as your phone number, home address or email address. It’s also best to avoid social media information. When communication on social media has happened, the result has often been disappointment and unmet expectations.

If your sponsored child or their family does contact you by phone, email or social media, please don’t respond. Instead, call Compassion at 800-336-7676 or email [email protected], and we’ll make sure they understand our communication guidelines.

Keep it kid friendly.

Please do not discuss or share photos showing potentially harmful products such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs or guns. We also ask that you avoid topics related to sex or sexuality, as we believe such topics should be left to the discretion of a child’s parent or guardian.

There are a lot of kid-friendly topics to discuss instead. For example, reminisce about your childhood or describe how you overcame a challenge or met a goal in your life.

Avoid details about health issues.

While it’s certainly fine to share if you have been sick or to ask for prayer, please don’t share sensitive health details or medical terminology that may be hard to translate or hard for a young person to understand. Doing so may cause your sponsored child to stress and worry. If you do mention that you had a recent medical procedure, try to stay positive and reassuring.

Don’t discuss wealth or status.

It’s important to be sensitive to your sponsored child’s economic situation, so please do not share about purchases or brands that others may not be able to afford. It’s also best to avoid mentioning the size of your home or the kind of car you drive, as such details only accentuate the economic gap between you and your child. Instead, talk about special holiday and family customs. You can also discuss important events like weddings, graduations, trips or new jobs.

Avoid political rants.

While it may seem obvious that your sponsored child shouldn’t be the target audience for your political soapbox, it’s still worth saying: Your letters should not be a political rant. Please avoid asking about sensitive political topics related to your child’s country. For example, it’s not appropriate to ask, “What do you think of your president?” or “How do you feel about the corruption in your government?” Instead, talk about a person who positively influenced you, or share an important life lesson that you recently learned.

Again, your sponsored child loves to receive your letters. These letters are your opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your child’s life. So be sure that impression is a positive one! Thank you for avoiding oversharing and focusing instead on topics that will encourage and inspire your child!

Make a Lasting Impression

a girl holds a letter from her sponsor

Encourage and inspire the child you sponsor by writing them a letter today.

a girl holds a letter from her sponsor