Being an aunt or an uncle or a pseudo-aunt or uncle has its benefits. You get to be the fun friend or family member—the one who gets to spoil the kids, make them laugh, fill them with sugar and caffeine, and send them home. It’s a win-win for you and the kids.
We can expose them to other interests or hobbies that their parents might not be into, but there’s so much more to spending time with kids than simply being the fun aunt, uncle, or friend. They not only need our support and encouragement, they need more people to speak Truth over their lives. They need us to remind them that they are deeply loved—and not just by the people who gave birth to them.
They also need a front-row seat in the well-lived life of a single person. They need to see that life is fulfilling and God is good, even when our deepest desires aren’t met. They’re seeing marriage—whether positive or a negative—modeled for them in their parents. Seeing singleness helps them to see that the alternative is not a lesser option.
We reached out to several of our SingleRoots writers and friends to see how they’re investing in the lives of children who are not their own. Even if you don’t have nieces and nephews, you’ll still find ideas for pouring into kids of all ages:
Karen Rodriguez :: “A good friend of mine is the mom of two elementary-aged girls, one who reminds me a lot of myself at her age. I originally started spending time with the girls about once or twice a month when I felt like their mom needed a break or had lots of work to do or needed a date-night with her husband. Eventually, I scheduled one afternoon every other week with the oldest daughter because we were both interested in art. We’d spend a couple of hours in my studio together painting or drawing. This became an opportunity for her to experience positive one-on-one time with an adult besides her parents.”
Jessica Bufkin :: “I prefer experiences over gifts. As my nephews and niece have gotten older, I’ve wanted to foster in them the same love for travel that I have. I want them to see how big—yet incredibly small—the world actually is because I believe it also helps grow their love for people as well as their heart for missions. My oldest nephew will be 9 in the spring, and he’s now old enough to appreciate a trip to somewhere other than Disney World, so this summer will begin the first annual ‘Let’s Go Somewhere with Aunt Jessica.’ Because I’m a teacher at heart, I took him to the local bookstore for a ‘research date.’ We picked out travel guides and maps for all of the places he was interested in. While researching, I made him make a list of locations he’d like to go, as well as the things he wanted to see there. I had him narrow it down to his top 3 choices, and I get the final decision on where our summer vacation will be. Next summer, his younger brother will get to take a trip with me, and the following summer, his little sister will get to go. Then, finances willing, we’ll start the rotation all over again.”
Adam King :: “With a nephew that lives several states away, staying connected regularly has proven to be difficult. Rather than rely solely upon the handful of times a year that we get to hang out in person, I feel like it’s important to be intentional about creating connections. My favorite way to do this is through the mail. It’s easy to throw together a care package filled with dollar store finds and a quick note. I’ve found that including something activity-based is the most successful. For example, one summer, I wrote little notes on the back of puzzle pieces and then mailed a handful of pieces in an envelope together every couple of weeks. By the end of the summer, he had all of the pieces and was able to put the puzzle together. As he’s gotten older, we started a journal together. He keeps the journal for a month or so, filling it with entries, photos, and keepsakes, then he’ll drop it in the mail to me. I do the same thing while I’ve got it and then back in the mail it goes to him.”
CarrieBeth Davis :: “I am pretty much surrounded by teenagers, and everyone around me knows exactly who I’m talking about when I refer to my ‘babies,’ ‘chickens,’ or ‘angels.’ I love the kids I get to minister to through teaching and extra curricular activities. In these areas, it’s my goal to always be a source of constant support, encouragement, and love to kids who may not get those things at home. (I also love that I’m able to share a little Jesus along the way!) I am also blessed to walk alongside some amazing teenagers in various ministries within our church and small community. Some of these kids look to me as an older sister or an adoptive mom, and it means the world to me. These kids have a huge chunk of my heart, and I look for every opportunity to invest in their lives. It may be giving advice or spiritual guidance, helping them with schoolwork, offering encouragement, or just being there for them. Sometimes it’s as simple as opening my home for a movie night. I love that these kids allow me to ‘do life’ with them, and I couldn’t be more thankful for these small opportunities to nurture these awesome young men and women.”
Stacy Colvin :: “I have a niece that is 6 years old. I live in a city 3 hours away from her and her parents. Since she was 3 years old, I have made it a priority to spend quality time with her on a one-on-one basis. When she was younger, she would come to my house and spend a couple of nights. Now that she is slightly older, she stays a week with ‘Aunt Stacy.’ We do things like going to parks, baking, seeing movies, playing games, swimming, and any other activity that a 6-year old girl enjoys! These times spent with only her have been such a sweet time to develop our relationship. I want her to see me as someone she can come to at 6 as well as when she’s 16 and beyond!”
Liesl Bennett :: “My Sunday School teachers had 3 kids, and they didn’t have family in our city. After being invited over to their home for a few meals, a friend and I offered to reciprocate by keeping their kids while the parents went out for an evening. Over time, as we grew closer to the family, we started taking each kid out for a fun one-on-one time tailored to their personal interests. Since they were all older kids, their interests were more defined and varied. We took one daughter to a concert, another daughter to a painting lesson, and the son to a baseball game. We also would go to the kids’ band performances and sporting events. The parents often told us how helpful it was to them to have trusted friends investing in and loving on their kids, as well as providing respite for them in a city where they rarely got time off from parenting.”
Ben Morgan :: “Since I am only a year and a half into my first career job, and only two years out of college, money was very tight for most of my nephew’s and niece’s lives. As such, taking them out for meals, as I’d always imagined, was a trick proposition. So, I wondered, how was I to invest in them? I thought and thought trying to come up with ideas, then one day I was telling the oldest nephew about how archers fought in historical times (he’s a big archery buff). I realized that I can invest in them by teaching. Since I’ve begun to teach them little bits about being a gentleman, or pieces of history or science, or reading them Bible stories. I love investing my time and knowledge in my sibling’s kids. I hope one day that they will invest it in someone else saying, ‘Here is this really cool fact, I learned it from my uncle.’”
Becca Nelson :: “Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to adopt children. And not just any children, but I have always wanted the ones that not everyone else wants—the kids who have been passed around in the foster system, the siblings, the older ones who are less impressionable. In this season of my life I’ve been asking myself: If I really believe in giving love to the children who need it the most, what can I do about it right now? Last summer, for example, I was a counselor at a summer camp for children in the foster system. It was a lot like being a parent for a week—I had to set rules and boundaries, I had to deal with pre-teen drama, and I got yelled at a few times. Even though it was challenging, I felt like this is what I should be doing. Now, I keep looking for opportunities to be involved in the lives of children in whatever ways I can, whether it is as a teacher or a mentor or a friend. Even if I’m not in the right season of life to adopt, there are lots of ways I can live out this calling right now.”
What ways are you investing in kids that aren’t yours? Share your thoughts in the comments below.