Just like parenthood, auntie-hood -- becoming aunt to your sibling's or close friend's new bundle of joy -- is a rewarding and challenging experience. As you grow into your Savvy Auntie status, caring for your nieces and nephews will start to feel like second nature. What's great is knowing that your instinctual urges--those delicious desires to hug, kiss, and cuddle a newborn; the strong pull you feel inside you when the baby cries-are what's guiding you toward better and better auntie-ing skills. This is stuff that you probably don't need a book to teach you. But it's also some of the best stuff about auntie-ing, so I couldn't help sharing.
1. Affectionate, loving touch is essential for developing newborns' brains and bodies. Science has shown that preemies develop more quickly when caressed, and babies tend to cry less when held.
2. Responding to a baby's or young child's needs makes him or her feel secure, and a secure child grows up to be a secure adult. So put down that BlackBerry when caring for your niece or nephew and focus on what he or she needs. Watch for signals and read between the cries.
3. No matter how deep the discussion you're having with an uncle, if a toddler is grabbing for your attention, give it to him. Your responsiveness will make the child feel secure.
4. Address a child's needs with warmth and timeliness. This will build trust.
5. Stimulate their minds with new activities. Studies have shown that opening up a little one to a new experience, game or toy can actually demonstrate brain growth within hours.
6. On the other hand, don't overstimulate them with too many toys or games at once. For little ones, play is work, so imagine what it would be like if the assignments kept piling up on your desk. That's how your niece is feeling when she starts to cry, surrounded by all the new toys you just bought her. Try one toy at a time, and let her explore the toy the way she wants to. If she appears frustrated, you can lead the way by talking through the solution and slowly showing her how it works.
7. Give the child attention. Despite what we used to think, you can't actually spoil a child with too much attention. They ask for what they need (including hugs!).
8. No matter how bad your day at work, it's best not to let it show around the little ones. Even babies can feel tension. If they're exposed to their parents' stress, offer to take them for a walk.
9. It's tough to give multiple nieces and nephews all the attention they need all the time. Do the best you can.
10. Take care of yourself. After a long visit, you may need a nap or a cocktail. Consider these your self-administered pats on the back for helping the most important little people in your life to grow up as best they can.
For more Savvy Auntie tips, check out Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids (Morrow/HarperCollins). Watch the book's trailer, here.
Melanie Notkin (a.k.a Savvy Auntie) is a genConnect.com expert guiding savvy aunties of NYC and the globe. Melanie is the author of Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids (Morrow/HarperCollins), the founder of SavvyAuntie.com and the creator of the popular Savvy Auntie lifestyle brand - the phenomenon heralded by fabulous kid-friendly women everywhere as a celebration of modern, cosmopolitan aunthood. Watch the Savvy Auntie book trailer here.