Take advantage of your built-in mentoring relationships

This year we’re having a monthly series on mentoring. Head here to read the previous posts.

I heard a radio interview a few years ago where the interviewee was lamenting the fact that we’ve lost the concept of the uncle in today’s society. Families live far apart these days, and too many kids grown up without the steady, continuous presence of adults in their lives who aren’t their parents.

What he was saying is that family used to more reliably provide a network of built-in mentors, which is a shame, because kids still need the presence of older and wiser adults–who aren’t their parents–in their lives.

If you’re getting together with family or close friends this weekend, stop for a moment to consider the value of the aunt, the uncle, the older friend who is not the parent, and remember: that could be you. 

If you have nieces or nephews, do you need to up your game? It’s easy for me to be a less-than-awesome aunt, because distance gets in the way and I don’t see my nieces and nephews as often as I’d like. If you’re in the same boat as me, this is a great season to make up for lost time.

Try sitting at the kids’ table this year. Brush up on your knock-knock jokes. Bring a little present. Make sure you have time to chat with the kids–even for a few minutes. (For more tips, check out how to be an awesome uncle over at the Art of Manliness.)

If you don’t have nieces or nephews, think about being somebody’s honorary aunt. My own kids call my cousins their “aunts” because it captures the relationship so much better, but no blood relation is required: adopt a friend’s kid as your “niece-in-love.”

This holiday season, make it a point to take advantage of any mentoring relationships that are already built into your family, however those relationships happen to look in your life, and whether that means giving advice or getting it.

Do you have a special relationship with an aunt or an uncle, a niece or a nephew, biological or adopted? Tell us about it in comments. 

Let's Talk About Mentoring: Take advantage of your built-in mentoring relationships | Modern Mrs Darcy

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  1. Jeannie says:

    I observe my brothers and brothers-in-law doing the uncle thing REALLY well with my kids. One of my husband’s brothers is a reserved, taciturn guy, but he sits with my daughter and talks quietly with her about interesting subjects, drawing her out beautifully. Another brother used to tease my daughter about how the alphabet actually contains three D’s, and they still have this funny conversation about it every time they meet; although she is now 15 I know she’d miss it if Uncle Mark stopped the routine. And my own brother, on every visit, plays a guessing game with my daughter where she thinks of a word and gives him a hint like “It rhymes with ‘dapple,’ and it’s a fruit” and he’ll say, “So … is it an iPad?” and before long they and everyone who’s listening is in stitches. I’m actually a little disappointed that I’ll never be an uncle, but I love what uncles do!

  2. Katie says:

    We never lived near extended family and I barely know my own aunts and uncles, though my godmothers (one aunt, one “aunt”) did a good job of writing and things like that. We just never saw them, even at holidays, and that’s hard.

    But there were always a variety of adults in my and my siblings’ lives, either parents of friends or adult friends from church. I do treasure those relationships; some are good friends even now as adults, and even though distance once again separates us! Good thoughts, Anne.

  3. Faigie says:

    You know what the problem Anne is with these potential mentors? They are busy on their smart phones all the time and how many of them would give the time away to mentor young kids

    • Tim says:

      Ignoring kids had been around since time immemorial. Smart phones are just the latest way to do it. The question, though. Is mot what others will do, nut heat I am willing to do with those who ate already in my sphere of influence. Putting down my own smart phone is a good start. (Right after I finish writing this comment, that is!)

  4. Tim says:

    My wife has taken to mentoring those already nearby: kids in the classes where she’s a paraeducator. We’ve started a homework club at our house M-Th evenings and any where from one to four kids shows up for help. She does math and science, I take on social studies and Spanish, our son jumps in where needed. We try to get through ad much work as possible, but conversations with 7th graders tend to veer. The kids know they have a safe place where they will be encouraged. It’s not traditional mentoring, but it is a matter of my wife reaching out to those within arms’ reach to help in their lives.

  5. You have brought to the page one of the major crises in our society today, IMHO, and through no fault of anyone in particular. We have become a fragmented society based on where people have to be to find work that provides for them and their families. We live in Oregon, 2200 miles away from two of our three children. These two children each have a son with whom we have very little up close and personal interaction. In fact, you feel as if you don’t really know them. It’s sad and even hurts all parties. I hope those reading your post will take it to heart and step up to mentor — it’s a wonderful experience for all concerned.

  6. Erin says:

    A couple of our dearest friends just dedicated their boy. I had never sat through a baby dedication where I felt the weight of the vows so significantly. I really meant them. I love my friends kids so much and I joke with one (she’s 1) that one day when she wants to run away (’cause all kids do) she can just come to Aunt Erin’s for a day or two and then she’ll want to go back. Kids need adults in their life. I’m pretty convinced that adults need kids too!

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