The relationship between an aunt and her niece is unique, and often quite special. Each with her own style, aunts can fulfill a variety of roles which enrich her niece's life, such as a second-mother figure, role model or confidante. When your niece is expecting a child, you can take on a significant, supportive role, which allows your relationship to grow in meaningful ways. As you anticipate your new title as great-aunt, consider some ways to support your niece as she navigates her pregnancy.
Act as a family buffer. Pregnancy can be an emotionally charged time for everyone involved, including grandparents-to-be. If necessary, you can play a pivotal role as the intermediary between your niece and other members of the family. If the two of you have a close relationship, there may be times when your niece feels more relaxed talking to you versus other family members about her needs and wishes as they relate to her pregnancy. Use your unique position within the extended family and your understanding of its members to help strengthen family communication while lending a supportive ear to your niece.
Help with logistics. In addition to emotional support, hands-on support for your niece can help contribute to her sense of well-being throughout pregnancy. These needs will change with each trimester. Should your niece have other children, offer to babysit so she can rest or sleep. Assist with preparing the baby gift registry, setting up the nursery and planning -- or hosting -- the baby shower. As she prepares for the baby's delivery, accompany her to doctor's appointments, or offer to care for her children or pets while she is in the hospital.
Pamper her. Ask your niece how she would like to be pampered and make it happen. Take advantage of spas offering services for pregnant women by treating your niece to a pregnancy massage or pedicure -- be sure she asks her doctor about potential restrictions. Take her out to lunch or on a shopping trip. Consider your niece's interests. Even helping with household chores can help to ease the burden of pregnancy and make your niece feel special.
Welcome the baby to the family with a meaningful gift. Within the extended family structure, aunts often serve as “kinkeepers,” preserving the family unity and culture through generations. If family history is important to your niece, give her photos of family members in decorative frames for the baby's nursery. Create an extended-family scrapbook highlighting family traditions. Consider how to devise your own unique way of honoring the baby's arrival into the family.
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- Widening the Family Circle: New Research on Family Communication; Kory Floyd, Mark T. Mormon
- Journal of Marriage and Family: The Forgotten Kin: Aunts and Uncles: Megan Gilligan and Karen L. Fingerman
- What to Expect When You're Expecting, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
- Widening the Family Circle: New Research on Family Communication: The "Other" Women in Family Life; Patricia J. Sotirin and Laura L. Ellingson
Emily DeYoung is a staff writer for "Touched By Cancer Magazine." Formerly an instructor and counselor in higher education, she holds a master's degree in counselor education. DeYoung is also a certified interpreter of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.