7 Ways to Be a Great Aunt or Uncle

1. Don’t be too serious.

If you’re not a parent yet yourself, handling a teeny-tiny newborn that seems so super-fragile is daunting. And when they begin to grow up and develop personalities, you might try to be a version of yourself that you think is appropriate, instead of giving your niece or nephew the real deal. As an aunt to three, you become the best ‘mentor’ when your just yourself: whether thats silly and fun or engaging.

2. Don’t just purge.

Instead of dropping off a heaping load of forget-me-nots, offer to take care of the baby while she or he sorts through your stash. This will make it easier for her to focus, give her a break, and then on your way home, you can donate what she tossed aside.

3. Clean the house.

Between the sleepless nights, the changes in hormones, and figuring out the breastfeeding bit, your sister (or sister-in-law) doesn’t need a cute onesie for the newborn as much as she needs, a nap. New mom Kate McGuffin of New York City says the biggest help her siblings offered her was the gift of helping out around the house. “Cooking meals, helping with cleaning, and offering to babysit while Mom and Dad have date night were all greatly appreciated,” she said. Though seemingly small, these things take a bullet point off the new parents’ checklist, allowing them to actually close their eyes for a hot second while you help put their home back together.

4. Own—and use—the cool aunt/uncle title.

It might make you feel old (we’re with you), but now you’re the cool aunt or the cool uncle. Remember when you had one? Now you get the chance to do all of the ridiculously fun stuff that your sibling’s kids can’t imagine their out-of-date parents doing.

5. Think twice before charging your credit card.

Gifting the trendiest toy on the market might make you feel like you’ll earn super-cool aunt points, but before you dish out the cash, consider how much work you’re also dishing on the parents. And make sure they’re appropriate for the stage of life your nieces or nephews are at. “My brother-in-law is really great about buying gifts for my husband’s son, but most of the time he gets toys or games that are two to three years over his age range. I think Uncle is trying to compliment his nephew by saying that he’s advanced enough for older toys, when in reality he would need considerable help assembling the toys or we have to find a place to store the toy until he’s old enough for it,” Pena shared.

6. Make time to participate, even if you’re far away.

Not everyone is lucky enough to live close to family members.  Even if your work schedule doesn’t allow for a daily FaceTime or Skype session,  r put in the extra effort to show your thinking of the family in another place/state/country, it can be comforting, Calls, texts, and emails weekly with activities can be fantastic.

7. Offer to keep the noisy toy at your house.

So you can’t resist that ‘educational toy’ you just know will be a ball of fun for your nephew, but will drive your brother mad.  Keep it at your house!