Don't underestimate these relationships - they're extremely influential.
After living far away from extended family for most of their lives, my children are discovering the treasure that is their aunt–and so am I
After growing up half a country away from all their aunts and uncles, my kids have been thoroughly enjoying all the aunt-uncle-and-cousin time they have now that we live in close proximity to extended family. And while we see everyone at family gatherings and holidays, most of their aunts and uncles are busy with their own families during the week–which makes the time my kids get to spend with my sister during the week even more special.
My sister is their only aunt on my side of the family, and she dove headfirst into the “aunt of the year” club the day we moved. From driving kids to gymnastics and ninja warrior classes to practicing softball in the front yard, she’s always ready to drop what she’s doing and help her nieces and nephews. But it’s not just what she does, it’s the way she does it that makes her such a special aunt–which I was reminded of when I read this post at You are Mom:
Aunts are wonderful confidants. When children are older, they’re sometimes afraid to talk about certain things with their parents. They’ll often turn to an aunt, and she’ll always have good advice to offer. Aunts are like psychologists. They always know when their nieces and nephews are sad, annoyed and not feeling well. An aunt listens and offers a shoulder to cry on until they feel better.
It’s so, so true. I thought I was pretty in tune with my kids, but my sister picks up on stuff that wasn’t even on my radar. She’ll come tell me when someone is feeling hurt or confused or angry, and it often comes as a complete surprise to me. She’s super empathetic, able to pick up on emotional cues that I miss, and she’s able to talk to my kids in a different way. They open up differently with her, and she’s able to give them guidance and advice that I would never think of.
She’s also an absolute wizard at the little extra special things I always want to do for my kids but never have time for–like slipping encouraging notes into their lunchboxes, or stealing 20 minutes outside for a pre-dinner soccer showdown. She’s become an invaluable support system for all of us–my kids know they have another adult they can count on to have time for all the little things their parents miss in the chaos of everyday life, and I know I can count on her to give them a little extra fun and a lot of extra wisdom.
I’m so grateful that my kids have an aunt like her around, but I wish I had done more to cultivate my children’s relationships with their aunts and uncles before we moved back to Texas. If you’ve got a sister or brother who doesn’t have a close relationships with your kids, I can’t encourage you enough to begin to help those relationships to grow. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in everyone’s life, including yours!
For you aunts and uncles out there, don’t be afraid to find ways to connect with your nieces and nephews. It can be as simple as taking them for ice cream and asking how their day was, or surprising them with a FaceTime call if you’re far away. Kids love personal attention, and your time will meant the world to them. They might even open up to you about something that’s bothering them, something they haven’t been able to tell Mom and Dad. Your nieces and nephews need you in their lives–and you might not know it yet, but you need them in your life, too.