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Pen Pals with Cousins

May 30, 2011

Every other year or so we have family reunions with my parents siblings, my cousins and their children.   Have you found that the more you know the people at a family reunion the more fun it is?  I remember attending a reunion when I was 11 or so … hundreds of people were there and I was connected with all of them through one great great grandparent, but my siblings and I were bored to tears because we didn’t know a single soul there other than our parents and grandparents.

In an effort to help the 3rd generation, (aka, 1st cousins once removed) get to know each other better and strengthen family ties before the family reunion, and bridge the geographic gap between this 3rd generation … there are thousands of miles, multiple states and in one case, an ocean between them … we paired them up as pen pals.

It’s been great fun.   The kids get to practice their handwriting, spelling and composition, and I can’t tell you how excited they get when there is a letter in the mail just for them!   They are also getting to know their extended family, strengthening family relationships which will hopefully bring strength and comfort to them as the years go on.  I wish I could say that they write weekly or that they are always chomping at the bit to write a letter to their cousins … they don’t and they aren’t.  But it’s never diminished the excitement they get when a letter arrives in the mailbox addressed to them in 4th grade pencil.

Our first pen pal letters turned into mini care packages.  We made our own bubble wrap envelopes and covered them in scrapbook paper.  We then filled them with light, inexpensive trinkets we thought they might like and in some cases told a little bit about the child sending the letter … seed packets, stickers, drink pouches, and pictures of the activities talked about in the letter.  Since then the kids have tried to include a little something or other that won’t mess with the postage to make their letters a little more interesting to send and receive …  sudoku puzzles, bookmarks, temporary tatoos, favorite recipes, etc.

So if you have family reunions in your future, or you want your children to build relationships with cousins and 1st cousins once removed they don’t see often, consider starting up a little pen pal ring and see what happens.  It might be slow going a first, but don’t give up, you just might find that the whole thing takes off and continues well past the family gathering.

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