The role of the godparent has, in many cases, expanded far beyond being involved in a kid’s religious upbringing, and often, being considered an auntie has less to do with being sharing the same relatives and more to do with sharing a deep bond with the offspring of a dear friend.
And how cool is that, for both the child in question and for the adults involved? I don’t think there’s such a thing as having too many positive, loving adult influences on a child, and there’s a reason the saying, “It takes a village” has stuck around — those positive adult influences can be really helpful for the parents, too.
Obviously, if you live anywhere near your godchild/niece/nephew and can see them frequently, that’s the best way to create and nurture a meaningful connection. But if you’re on opposite sides of the country, don’t worry — you can still be the coolest auntie or godmother (or, as I’m called by the world’s best goddaughter, Bibbity Boo) around!
1. Find a genuine connection.
Do you share any talents or interests? If so, make a point to nurture it in any ways you can. In my goddaughter’s case, she’s creative and artistic — and also athletic. So if I send a gift, I try to include something that’ll encourage those interests — and, hopefully, help her feel supported by someone who is also into writing and painting and running around until I’m gross and sweaty. If you’re struggling to find something obvious in common, start digging into more of the child’s hobbies and activities. Even if you’re not particularly musical and your kiddo is, perhaps you can find an artist you both love singing along to.
2. Start a special tradition.
For example, when I travel anywhere interesting, I do my best to send my goddaughter a postcard from that place. I don’t always write a ton, but it lets her know that, wherever I am, I’m thinking of her. After sending her a couple of postcards from Hawaii on my first trip there, I learned that she took them to school for Show and Tell.
3. Communicate in multiple ways.
Hopping on the phone (or even better, Skype or FaceTime) is great, but you know what kids love to receive? Mail! Cards, letters, anything that comes in with their name on it is special. And, bonus — if you can get the parents on board, you could help the child improve his or her writing skills by being penpals. But snail mail isn’t the only means of communication these days, that’s for sure, so stay up to date on the types of social media your little one is joining, and if you’re not already on there, get on there. It’ll give you a way to have more interaction with the child, and you’ll also be in a good place to help monitor any unusual activity there that parents could miss.
4. Share pieces of yourself.
Now and again, I’ll send my goddaughter clothes or jewelry that I think she could use for costumes or dress-up, and I just recently sent her my old high school varsity letters and pins for those purposes. Books and movies are also fantastic as they become age appropriate. I love knowing that items that were meaningful to me at one time are now with one of the most special people in my life, and I know that it’s cool for her to get these glimpses into my life.
5. When you’re there, be all in.
I don’t get a ton of time with my goddaughter in person, but I try to make sure that, when I am there, it’s special and memorable. We saw Wonder Woman in the theater last year, and then had some really wonderful discussions about how, if she wants to, she can do hard workouts and get strong and do cool stunts or whatever she wants one day, and that there’s a lot of power in being a strong, independent woman. She paints my nails over and over to practice her technique. We run down dirt roads and talk about pacing. We cast spells and pretend we’re Hogwarts students. There’s nothing too silly if it’s something she’s psyched about, because if our time together is limited, I don’t want any of it to be wasted, you know?
In no way is this an exhaustive list — it’s just a few things I’ve found helpful. So, I’m curious — how do you cultivate a meaningful relationship with your godchildren, nieces and nephews? What are some of the special things you do to strengthen your bond? —Kristen