Creating a stronger bond: aunt and uncle edition

Becoming a big sister or brother is exciting enough. Sibling friendships that last through adulthood are endlessly rewarding. And then becoming an aunt or uncle is extra over-the-top fun that extends the sibling-friendship rewards into a new generation and all by choice, not requirement.

Sitting on the floor of their family room, the younger-by-twelve-years brother and his eldest sister chose names for new Crayola crayons. They were submitting the names for the company’s new colors naming contest. The pair won when one of their names was selected and a fresh tin of crayons, as well as other surprises arrived in the mail weeks later. They were both, especially the younger, excited to open the package. The big sister was so very proud to share that moment with him. Making her even more proud, though, was watching her brother now as a 20-something adult sweating like an old man in a sauna while attempting to climb indoor rock walls with her children. Uncle David, as he is now called, brings her to tears when he is being the kid she was goofy with so long ago, and sharing that goofiness with her own children.

The Influence of an Aunt or Uncle

How much influence an aunt or uncle has on the lives of their nieces and nephews, “depends on the aunt or uncle,” according to Melanie Notkin, the author of Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids. She further reminds all sisters and brothers, that unlike for the parents, “there’s no obligation of the aunt or uncle…”

And there really isn’t – which is the precise reason why Uncle David’s time spent with his nieces and nephews is that much more precious – he chooses to be with them when he has no obligation to be with them. Those children, and likely most children with aunts and uncles, know that these specific adults are choosing to be with them unlike their parents, teachers, and coaches who get them by default.

From Siblings to Aunts and Uncles

Being that fantastic auntie or uncle is not always easy. Sibling relationships are hard enough when everyone is still under the same roof, sharing the same bathroom, and negotiating chores. As an older sibling moves into more adult roles such as driving, dating, and later out of the house for life beyond family, those sisters and brothers may not always feel as wanted.

Being the involved aunt or uncle starts with knowing one’s sibling. Positive adult sibling relationships make for awesome aunts and fun uncles. Fortunately, electronic communication makes this easier than ever. While nothing will ever replace hearing the actual sound of a sister’s “How can I help?” or a brother’s “I’ll be right there”, quick, and even infrequent emails or texted notes of affection such as…

“thinking of you today”
“Yay. It’s Monday”
“TGIF!”
“remember when we…” or
“I am grateful for you”

… can grow a childhood sibling relationship into an adult sibling friendship. If a sibling knows you care about her, she will be more open and eager to share you with her children.

A Different Relationship

Similar to siblings, children often do not need many things from their aunts and uncles other than attention. Fun, free-to-be time. Again, because there is not the responsibility of the parenting role, the aunt and uncle can be the cool adult and just “be a kid” whenever it suits the situation.

As nieces and nephews age, the role of adviser is likely. Having already been a role model – because children are watching any and all adults for cues into the “grown-up world” – the real talk can happen more casually and seamlessly. Aunts and uncles, likely in different life stages than parents, have a different perspective about the big and small things in life. And what kid doesn’t enjoy a “when I was your age…” story?

Sometimes children do need things. In such cases, an aunt or uncle can be an extra provider. Perhaps it is simply an outfit for the first day of school or court shoes for YMCA basketball, but it could be more if the moment calls and there is the provision to help. Children always have wants, and those are so easy to meet – the tooth-rotting candy mom says no to or the frappe in the coffee shop where the attractive barista works after school.


Being that special Awesome Auntie or super Fun Uncle is a rewarding task and worthwhile for both the child and the adult. The adult siblings’ relationship is strengthened by the mutual care and concern of the child. When the adults are laughing and enjoying one another, the child naturally wants to be a part of that love. A packet of gum shared among five kids is a bonus, too, when it comes from Uncle David.

Investing your love, time and energy into your nieces and nephews is an amazing feeling, but it’s also a huge help to your sister (mom). For more ways to help mom, check out 8 Secrets of Happier Moms.

Photo Credits: St. John Photography

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Patty Allen

Patty Allen lives liberty with her husband and five unschooling children on a wannabe homestead in central North Carolina. When she isn’t bartering, organizing, or driving a child to an activity or choosing to make yet another thing from scratch, she can typically be found outside managing some sort of handwork – knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, etc.

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