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Starting A Family Newspaper

By Sunie Levin
Resident Blogger 

If you’re a great-grandparent, you’re old. No argument there.  “So what?” you might say. So let me tell you. There are more great-grandparents now than ever.  No mystery there. Lifespans are longer.  But what to do with those extra years? I’ll give you a hint.  Old doesn’t mean you have to retire from life. 

Families aren’t what they used to be. They’re scattered, fragmented.  And there are those great-grandparents, moaning and groaning about it.  They can do something about it. After all they have the time. Consider great-grandpa Sam.  He’s typical.  Retired, cantankerous, set in his ways, 87 years old, sharp as a brand-new razor. What’s he doing?  Publishing and editing the family newspaper, that’s what.  And what’s a family newspaper? You guessed it.  I’m going to tell you.  A family newspaper is the perfect way to keep a scattered family connected.  It takes effort.  Here’s how he does it. 

Big black headlines read David Wins Soccer Trophy, or Jillian Jumps Off High Diving Board A favorite is Sam’s column, I Remember When You might think it is a column of gentle reminiscences. It’s not.  He digs up all the family dirt. Sam’s memory is encyclopedic.He delights the family, not always those who names are mentioned. He gets astringent.  He tosses in little zingers like “for those of you who forgot, my birthday was July 10th. Next year, if you can’t afford a card, let me know and I’ll send you the money.” He includes jokes and riddles, and even a contest for everyone. 

With imagination, and caring, and effort, you too can stay close to your grandchildren and all the distant family.  A family newspaper is the perfect vehicle, because it draws in every family member.  Sam doesn’t let any of them off the hook – they all contribute, or they hear from him. 

So turn on your computer.  It is easy to format and you can give it a professional look.  “I don’t know how to write,” you exclaim.  I’m not asking you to be Tolstoy.  Just write a letter asking – no demanding – the whole family contribute their news.  Check with other family members to find out what the latest accomplishment is of each grandchild. It may not be big news for the New York Times, but Amy Takes Her First Step is a big deal in your own family circle.  Congratulate Tommy on his bunt single in the Little League game.  Did Megan have a great time at summer sleep away camp? The fact that she came home with head lice merits front page news. You get the idea. 

Send out a questionnaire to each family member.  Ask for hobbies, school activities, clubs and sports.  In short, find out as much as you can. Clip a cartoon or picture out of a magazine for your layout. The children can send you drawings and photographs. Get everyone into the act.  Have a contest to name the newspaper.  Give prizes for original stories or poetry.  The more involved everyone becomes, the more worthwhile the project. You can teach a grandchild how to write headlines, sports and movie reviews, even ads. It helps develop creative skills.  

 Perhaps if you have teenage grandchildren ask for some help.  It is a great way to get the older children to participate. Everyone will roll their eyes and complain when you badger than for the material to meet the deadline.  They’ll say it’s silly, but watch out if you omit any of their material.  The family newsletter draws the family together, keeps it connected, no matter how many miles separated. That’s a very, very good thing. 

Sunie Levin holds degrees in psychology and education, has held workshops around the country, appeared on radio and television and written several grandparenting books.  For more information: www.makenewfriendslivelonger.com