How to Be An Awesome Aunt

For National Aunt and Uncle's Day on July 26, a southeast Michigan aunt offers advice to help you share more experiences with your nieces and nephews.

For all of the aunts and uncles out there, July 26 is a day all about celebrating you by your nieces and nephews. It’s National Aunt and Uncle’s Day! As aunt to three nephews and one niece, this is my kind of holiday! Being an aunt has been one of the most exciting and meaningful parts of my adult life so far. My nephews and niece range in age from an almost 8-year-old to two almost 1-year-olds, so I’ve got some good experience when it comes to being the best aunt I can be, no matter what their ages are. If you’re an aunt-to-be or have been on the job for years, here are some of my tips for being the most awesome aunt you possibly can be.

Get down on the ground – it’s time to play.

When I’m visiting with my nephews, I like to think of myself as grown-up relief for their mom and dad. I come ready to play, no matter what the game may be. Whether it’s running around playgrounds or camping out on the family floor building a new LEGO set, I come over with my game face ready.

Be mom and dad’s backup grown-up.

When my nephews and niece are with me I try to be as fun and outgoing as I can be, but at the end of the day I’m still the adult that needs to look out for their best interests. I try to reinforce and compliment mom and dad’s rules and parenting styles to create the most unified family possible. If mom said only 30 minutes of Minecraft mining was allowed after the dinner, 30 minutes it is with Aunt Lish, too.

Stay connected.

It’s scary how well my nephews embrace today’s technology offerings! But because of that, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with them. All three of my nephews live out of Michigan, so I try to send video thank-you notes and text message pictures to them and I often get them in return. And we go analog, too. I adore sending snail mail and I’m trying to share that love of a handwritten note with my oldest nephews right now. I asked them to be my pen-pals this summer and they’ve done a great job! If you haven’t sent your niece or nephew a card in a while, add this idea to your to-do list. Little kids love to get their own mail.

Be a role model and someone to look up to.

It goes without saying, but part of being an awesome aunt is displaying characteristics that your nephew or niece admire. I try to make sure I’m compassionate, caring and understanding no matter what the situation is.

Be a teacher of your favorite subject.

When my nephews are over, craft class is always in session. We’ve worked on simple sewing skills, painting, card making … you name it. And when my husband is on the action, we’re learning how to play a new musical instrument or how to cook dinner. Whatever your hobby or passion is, use that as your teaching subject. Chances are your nieces and nephews can’t wait to try something new, especially when you’re showing them how.

Have fun at the toy store.

I’m definitely guilty of spoiling my niece and nephews from time to time. But one of the best parts of being a grown-up is being able to do that. I keep an eye on the dollar section at stores like Target and Meijer for silly items I can use as a surprise gift or activity later on. And I keep a watchful eye on Saturday morning cartoon commercials to see what the coolest new toys are. Let’s be honest – half the time I’m buying something so that I can play with it, too!

Give lots of hugs, kisses and big smiles.

I read a piece of advice once that said to be the adult who never ends a hug with your child first and I couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day with niece and nephews there are always big hugs, goodnight kisses and big smiles as we say, “See you next time!” There are so many ways to be an awesome aunt, but if you follow just one rule, make it this one: give lots and lots of love to your niece and nephew.

Photo caption: Part of being an awesome aunt to my nephews Will (7) and Miles (5) is being a teacher of silly subjects. I’ve been teaching them how to win at the toy crane game for a while now and on a recent trip to the movies we all won big!

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