When I think about my childhood, my extended family is the first thing that comes to mind. I was lucky enough to live next door to my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. They were my built-in friends, babysitters, and trusted advisors.

Today I hold many titles but my favorite one is “aunt.” I am Aunt Megan to two nieces and two nephews who I try to bring up in just about every conversation. Being part of their lives is so important to me; I even moved states in order to live closer to them.

Why would I move to be closer to my nieces and nephews? It wasn’t just for them! They help me live into the best version of myself. They also show me how to have a little more fun in life.

Here’s how being an aunt has made me a better person and what I’ve learned along the way.

What is extended family?

First, while Cambridge dictionary describes an extended family as “a family unit that includes grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and uncles, etc. in addition to parents and children,” we’re not limited to just that definition.

We really don’t have to be related to someone to be a member of their extended family. If you live far away from family, your friends and your faith community can become your extended family. This was true for me when I lived far away from my family.

Roles of an aunt in the family

Now that I’ve been an aunt for eight years, I can tell you about the roles I’ve held and how they’ve shaped me along with my nieces and nephews.

Confidant- Aunts are people who they can go to when they aren’t comfortable talking to their parents. Aunts provide a trusted adult to listen and offer advice.

Mentor/role model- Aunts can provide alternative perspectives on career, family, hobbies, and relationships. They are a trusted adult who can be looked up to.

Someone who understands- You are part of the same family and know their parents, so you can be a listening ear that understands their viewpoints.

#1 fan- Aunts are built-in cheerleaders. You are there to cheer them on, and they know you are on their side.

Qualities of a good aunt or uncle

Being involved in my nieces’ and nephews’ lives has filled my life with joy and lots of laughter. Here are some qualities that have helped me be the best aunt I can be.

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalny

Be Open- You listen to understand and are empathic.

Be Trustworthy- You keep their confidence unless they are in danger. It is important to tell their parents your plan regarding this.

Be Available- You are there for special milestones and the everyday moments. Sports, extracurricular activities, ice cream trips, birthday parties, etc.

Be Fun- Have fun with your nieces and nephews and don’t be afraid to be a little silly. Bonds are created over laughter.

Be Interested- Learn what they are into and talk to them about it. Meet them where they are to show you care.

Be You- Don’t try to put on a show and lecture them. They will pick up more from how you live your life and treat others.

What does the Bible say about family relationships?

I value time with my nieces and nephews, and when I look at Jesus, he also valued time with children.

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18|16

When it comes to being an aunt, I keep these verses front of mind to remind myself to encourage them by living a life that bears good fruit.

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5|11

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

I’m still learning every day how to be the best version of myself but having my nieces and nephews by my side are helping me do just that. They have taught me that life is more fun when you jump into the water rather than staying on the shore and that sledding down the hill brings more joy than sitting inside.

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About the Author: Megan Walters

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