8-Year-Old's Pen Pals Are All Convicted Felons

Where have all the pen pals gone? Back in the day, we all had 'em. We'd procrastinate when it came to writing essays for school, yet we'd happily pen six-page tomes to our pen pals and wax poetic about our 12-year-old lives (my mom is soooo mean for not letting me go to concerts!). We would wait impatiently until we received that foreign-looking envelope in our mailboxes -- the one that was practically bathing in exotic-looking stamps.

The benefits of corresponding with someone whom we'd ordinarily never have gotten a chance to meet in real life are numerous -- but letter-writing is a dying art.

That is, unless you're Julie Paris -- a British mom who lets her 8-year-old daughter write to and receive letters from prisoners who are serving time for murder.

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Paris has been writing to inmates for 13 years and says she believes allowing her young daughter to do the same teaches her a lot about forgiveness. She has even taken things to the next level by traveling from the UK to the US with her daughter to visit a man who is behind bars for murdering his girlfriend.

She says her daughter, Mollie, is "okay with it" and that she would never allow this to go on if she weren't sure of that.

So, look, I'm all for instilling in your child the importance of forgiving others. But I would start by teaching them this lesson any time one of their friends hurts their feelings for, oh, I don't know, saying something nasty to them about the sneakers they're wearing. But murder? Why is it a child's place to offer her forgiveness to these prisoners for what they did?

I don't care if this mom only allows her child to correspond with inmates in America because she thinks it's "safer"; this is NOT safe. How can she be 100 percent certain one of her daughter's pen pals won't develop an unhealthy fixation on her? Does she think it's completely out of the realm of possibility that an inmate may know someone on the "outside" who could harm her child if he decides that's something he wants to do?

Except for instances in which kids write sweet letters to members of the military and they respond with a "thanks" and that's as far as it goes, children's pen pals should be other children.

When I was in school, my teachers hooked us up with pen pals from different countries. My pen pal was from Italy. Through our correspondences, we taught each other a bit of Italian and English and I was able to dazzle her with Beverly Hills 90210 spoilers (the show aired in Europe, but they were a season or two behind us). I can't imagine having anything to say to an adult at that point in my life. And what on earth does an adult stranger have to say to a child?

More from The Stir: 15 Unintentionally Hilarious Letters From Kids to Santa

But when the relationship is between two children, pen pals are a wonderful thing. And there ARE safe ways we can help our children find peers. Here are 4 tips to helping your kid hook up with a pen pal:

Visit websites like International PenFriends and PenPal World, which lets minors block out adults.

Kids can sign up for pen pals (but only with a parent's permission) through the website Friendship By Mail.

Check in with family and friends and ask if anyone knows a child who is living abroad or in another state.

Local clubs like Girl Scouts may be able to help by introducing your child to someone his or her age who is also a member of the same club.

Does your child have a pen pal? Would you allow him or her to write to an adult?

 

Image ©iStock.com/koosen

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