Children Development & Family: Live-In Aunt & Role Model

Children development & family: living with a sibling who has children, it is important to be a good role-model and respectful of your sibling and their family.

At some point in your life, you might find yourself living in the home of one of your adult siblings. This happens for various reasons, most probably financial reasons prevail, but convenience can be a factor too. It is often beneficial for a sister (or brother - here we will refer to 'aunt' as the sibling moving in to the home) to move temporarily into the home of a sibling because of a very low (or nonexistent) rent payment. And when children are involved, although the situation can become more complex, it can also be very rewarding for all concerned, including the aunt, sibling, and children of the sibling. Offering babysitting services is a great way to relieve some stress for your sibling when they need help and it can also be very comforting for an aunt to be welcomed into the home of beloved family members.

Although there are great joys and benefits from living with family, there can also be bumpy times, and it could be greatly beneficial long-term to consider all angles of the situation before moving into a sibling's home. However, once the decision is made, take time to enjoy the stay while it lasts, and be true to yourself and your family, and most of all, be a great role model for the children while you are in their home.

If a sibling is willing to take you into his or her home, you must realize that certain behaviors are expected. You are now in a home where children are growing up, and it is important to be respectful of the parents' wishes. For instance, out of respect and courtesy, don't swear and don't tease the children or teach them things that you know the parent's would object to. Pay attention to what they are watching on television and put them in bed at the bedtime specified by your sibling (if you are babysitting). By entering the home, you are accepting the fact that you have certain responsibilities as a role model. Although you are the aunt, you must respect the parents' wishes. If you must discipline, be sure to follow the parents' lead. Don't push your views of parenting onto your sibling, as they are not your children. There is a fine line, and it is important to openly discuss your role in the children's lives, and where the line should be drawn. It is important to stay out of family disputes, and to not become another disciplinarian for the children, leave that to your sibling and his or her spouse if at all possible.

There are also great rewards for being an essential role model for nieces and nephews. Especially if you are single, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to witness the maturing and aging of your sibling's children. If you do not have children of your own, you truly learn the responsibility that comes with raising them, and your stint as a live-in role model might help you make decisions later in life as to whether you are ready to have children of your own. It is also heartwarming to see a child gaining a skill that you have taught them, or draw a family picture that includes you as well. You see more and more of you in the children, and realize that you are, in fact, a major influence in their lives. That realization makes every bit of babysitting worth it.

As time elapses, routines emerge. Since you live in the house, it is easy to accept responsibilities that you might not have otherwise accepted. For instance, when your sibling runs errands to makes quick trips to the store or wherever, you might be asked to "˜keep and eye on the children.' You do not object to this, as you are already home and have no plans for the day or evening, and you love the kids and want to help so it's really not a problem. Just be careful that your "˜favors' do not turn into "˜requirements.' It is easy to be taken advantage of in situations such as these, and remember that you still need your private time and shouldn't be expected to be a full time babysitter. Even if you don't have plans, per se, you might be in need of some personal time and that should be understood. Just be firm and explain your reasons, most of the time your sibling will see that he or she might have gone over the line or asked for too much, and they will think twice and be sure to "˜ask' next time, instead of assume. Just don't forget that they are doing you a favor as well, and bitterness is never better than open communication about concerns or hurt feelings.

Several years of being a live-in aunt can help grow a strong bond with children and, when it is time to move out or on with your life (maybe you are getting married or no longer need the financial support that living with a sibling created in the beginning), it may seem impossible to let them go. In addition, it is probably difficult to lose that special bond with your sibling that was created when you were living together, but as adults you both understand that the relationship can go on, just as strong but from different geographical locations. A child, however, may never understand your commitment to him or her or the sacrifices that you may have made to be there for them. You may be sad to think that your contributions might be forgotten over time, and your stint as a live-in aunt was just that, a part-time gig with no real commitments or long-term benefits. Just remember, the children do benefit from your care. You helped a household remain a home, you cooked for them, cleaned them, comforted them, cried with them, and laughed with them. You filled in when mommy or daddy couldn't be there, and your sibling will never forget that.

After you have moved out, it can be extremely fun continuing a relationship with a niece or nephew after you have lived with them for an extended period of time. You are no longer a boss to them, and you can once again be seen as aunt so and so. If you want to spoil them, there's no guilt (okay almost none). You can give them ice cream before bedtime and pizza and peanut butter & jelly whenever they want. You can have sleepovers at your new home, soda and popcorn at midnight, and no bedtime! Their view of you as a disciplinarian will quickly diminish and you can revel in the fact that you are fun again! Although they might "˜forget' that you were once a strict role model in their home, you will never lose the memories or the lessons that being a live-in aunt taught you. And maybe your experiences with them will help you become a better mother in the future, when the time is right and you have children of your own! And let's not forget, teenagers make great babysitters, and your nieces and nephews might just be the right age when it's your turn to ask for their "˜babysitting services.'

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