What Does It Mean to be a Good “Aunt”?

By Josie Brown

You don’t have kids of your own. You don’t even have a cat. Whether this was fate, the luck of the draw, or a conscious decision, it really doesn’t matter:

It’s the way you live now.

That said, there are still ways in which you can commune with the younger humans in your life. Whether they are the children of your siblings or BFFs, kids allow us to see life with a whole different perspective. So, why not share the joy of a first (maybe even, for you too) experience?

Here are a few tips on how you can be a great aunt (as opposed to a great-aunt):

1. See the child as often as you can.
If your nephew or niece only sees you once every couple of years, they won’t remember you fondly, just vaguely.  Dropping in, even if it’s only every six month, can make a big difference in what he or she will remember about you.  And of course, the changes (physical, emotional, and mental) in the wee one will blow you away, too.

2. When you’re there, spend quality time.
This isn’t a cliche. It’s a memory maker.  Make cookies. Play Legos. Attend her soccer games. Color on construction paper. Go fishing, or bowling, or biking.  Yes, it would be much easier to show up with the latest Halo game, or another cute tee-shirt or little dress, but if you want the child to remember you long after she’s outgrown your gift, make a memory instead.  In fact, memorialize your day with photos.

3. If you can’t be there in person, put in a call.
Even if you can’t physically be in the child’s life, make a call date, say, once a week. Hearing your voice, discussing with you his day, asking you questions about your life leads to trust, respect, love, a a lifelong friendship between the two of you.

4. Make keepsakes of your visits.
If she gives you a card, if she’s in a play and you’ve saved the program, keep it in a photo album, along with pictures of your precious moments together. It’s something you can leave for them, long after you’re gone. She will realize what she meant to you, and her memory of you will be all the sweeter for that.

5. As the child grows older, stay in touch.
He won’t always be your “little guy.” And that’s okay. As he grows into a teen or a young man, he’ll still need a sounding board, a mentor. You’re perfect for the role:  you’re his “cool aunt,” the one who gets him, who has been there and done that, who listens but doesn’t pass judgment.

Now, the two of you are friends.

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