Since the pandemic began, one of the toughest things to face has been social isolation. This has been especially true for senior citizens. As one of the populations with the highest risk, seniors have been missing their loved ones for months. Many nursing homes, retirement communities and assisted living facilities have requested messages from “pen pals.”
A community service activity like this is a valuable opportunity to teach your child empathy and compassion. Participating in activities requiring compassion and kindness builds emotional intelligence. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention, are more engaged in school, have more positive relationships, and are more empathetic.” See the bottom of this post for more information on empathy and emotional intelligence.
Children of all ages can take part in this special activity!
- Have younger children draw pictures. If possible, ask them to tell you about their picture or give you a message to write for them.
- For older kids, have them write their own messages. Ask them to share something about themselves and ask their pen pal a question.
- Grab a few postcards from your summer vacation destinations and send them off with a special message.
- Send “care packages” with items such as:
- Crossword puzzles
- Sudoku books
- Books & magazines
- Adult coloring books with crayons or markers
- Deck of playing cards
- Toiletries like lotions or dry shampoo
We recommend contacting your local assisted living facility for more details on their residents and what care package items might be needed. Don’t forget to include your return address so your pen pal can write you back!
Good Morning America, Quarantine pen pals: Seniors are looking to make new friends
Better Homes and Gardens, Seniors Searching for Pen Pals
To learn more about empathy development in the early years, check out:
Psychology Today, How Children Develop Empathy
Zero to Three, How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy