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Teenager Publishes Online Newsletter to Bridge Gap with Grandparents

By Tucker Sutherland, editor

   
 

Lauren with her grandmother, Ruth Vincent

 

July 17, 2005 – If you are a grandparent, or even a parent, you have to love this story. It is about Lauren Teegarden, a high school senior in Portland, Oregon, who has started her own Website. That may not be too unusual but this teenager-created site is called "The Grandparent Connection" – not a topic many teenagers get fired up about.

Lauren began "The Grandparent Connection" in 2003, when she says she saw a need to bridge the "generation gap" between grandparents and their grandchildren.

She says she publishes a newsletter that is distributed only by email, although you can find the newsletters to on her Website at www.thegrandparentconnection.org, where you can also subscribe – for free.

“It began as a print newsletter, which I distributed at local (Portland) area senior centers,” says Lauren. “In January 2005, however, I switched to an email-only distribution to reach a greater number of seniors and a greater geographic area.”

The newsletter covers a wide array of topics, including editiorials, expository articles, crafts, activities, recipes, advice, gift-giving tips, and suggestions to preserve memories. Each month's newsletter features a different combination.

“Currently, I have about 1000 regular subscribers,” she says, “but I also send the newsletter to a few senior centers which distribute print copies.”

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The readers of "The Grandparent Connection" are from all across the continental US, and there are a few in the UK, Australia, and Canada. 

In describing how the publication works, she says, “While I do most of the writing myself, I have started getting other teens to contribute some of the editorial material, since it is getting difficult to keep up with it all! The best part of the process is, of course, the feedback that I receive from the readers. Many seniors seem to enjoy it, and I've gotten some lovely heart-felt letters.”

And, it may have launched a journalistic career - Lauren also writes a column on senior-teen relations for a California-based senior paper. When she gets to college, next year, she says she does plan on exploring “a communications-related field, most likely business with an emphasis on marketing/PR.”

Log on to www.thegrandparentconnection.org to sign up for the free newsletter, which will be delivered monthly to your inbox.

At the site you will also find additional articles and advice, as well as past issues.

“Fresh, fun, and informative, The Grandparent Connection is a delight for any grandparent,” says Lauren’s promotion,

Following is one of Lauren’s articles about grandparents and teenagers. This article explains the basis for her newsletter.

Grandparents and Teenagers

Are teenagers as impossible the second time around? Hardly.

By Lauren Teegarden

While young children often admire and revere their grandparents, the same may not be true for teenagers. Being a grandparent to a teen requires some special skills. Your golden-curled, chubby-cheeked cutie may have morphed into a sharp-tongued, pierced-lipped teen, but don’t disappear for the teen years just because the difficulty of grandparenting has increased several notches on the Richter scale. Grandparents are especially important during this stage of life. You can provide support and advice to parents, become a confidante to teens, and help ease family conflict between teens and their parents.

As soon as the adorable child becomes a teenager, the absolute authority that mom and dad once had seems to evaporate overnight.  The result in most families? Conflict. With the right tactics, however, grandparents can become a neutral ground in such conflicts. Because teenagers are not as emotionally intertwined with grandparents as with parents, grandparents can become a valuable emotional sanctuary separate from mom and dad’s “unfair” rules and regulations. Let’s examine the importance of the grandparent-teenager relationship.

1. Teens can learn from grandparents.

While it may not be obvious, teenagers are in search of their grandparent’s knowledge and information. Teenagers are interested in many topics that parents are too busy (or too young) to talk about: marriage, politics, aging, religion, love, and the past. Grandparents represent the spirit of the family and are an important role model for teenagers. Regardless of outward attitude, all teens want what family represents—a sense of unconditional belonging.

2. Grandparents can learn from teenagers.

Grandparents can learn to “get with it” from their grandchildren. This might mean using technology (such as email or instant messaging), updating an outdated wardrobe, trying a new type of food, or adapting vocabulary for the 21st century. It’s no secret that teenagers today have very different lives than, say, the 1940’s, and that degree of separation can actually provide a platform for connection. Just as your grandchildren are a link to the future, you are your grandchildren’s link to the past.

In order to successfully relate to your teenage grandchild, you must experience some of the same things he or she experiences. Try watching a movie or TV show that your grandchild likes, taking your grandchild shopping, or reading a contemporary book with teenagers as the main characters. Don’t worry if you haven’t an immediate affinity for today’s teen culture; too much has happened in the past fifty-plus years.

While it is valuable to experience the life and times of your teenager, don’t get carried away. Contrary to some views, teens want grandparents to be garage-band observers—not participants.  All kids find security in the constant state of their grandparents.

3. Grandparent-grandchild relations can benefit parents.

If you live in proximity to your grandchild, provide a sanctuary for them. When relationship problems (from family, school, etc.) arise, be a listening ear and sage source of advice. Provide an environment where kids feel safe baring their dreams, fears, and regrets. Their peers may give questionable advice, and parents’ advice is often ignored, but your thoughts and opinions may be treated with respect.

Be a resource for parents as well as kids. As you most likely vividly recall from the 70’s long-hair, hippie phase, raising a teenager is hardly a picnic. If asked, share advice—or perhaps stories from when they were teenagers.

Grandparents often fill babysitting roles for young children, but “babysitting” can also apply to teens. Relieve mom and dad of their parenting responsibilities—and spend time with your grandchildren--by inviting the grandkids to your home for a weekend.

The teenage years couple both difficult and rewarding moments. During the years between the cute child and mature adult, character is molded. As a grandparent, it is both your privilege and duty to have a part in this process. After all, they’re a valuable legacy!

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