Cool Aunt: How to Bond with Your Nieces and Nephews

“For me,” says Heidi Sarna of Singapore, “[being the cool aunt] is about being the goofy boundary pusher that’s the total opposite of mom.” But that advice is true whatever the child’s parents are like—my own sister is the goofy boundary pusher in our family, so sometimes my niece comes to me looking for quiet time, and I am always happy to give it to her. (Here’s


Since you’re not the one who doles out punishment—their parents can handle that, thank you very much!—you get to be their confidant without fear. “I think it’s about being there for your niece and nephews as a different kind of resource,” explains Randi Marshall of New York City. “It means being really close to them to the point that they can come to you with anything.”


My six-year old niece and I go to dim sum together whenever we can. We both think of dumplings as our favorite foods and her parents are just not fans, so it’s the perfect shared bonding time.


While a movie or a shopping day is always fun, cool aunts are often the ones who empower themselves to take their nieces or nephews somewhere really special. “My niece is dying to go to Lollapallooza with me,” says Vera Springett of Chicago. “Now her parents just need to give in and fly her over from California one day!”


Elsa met the American soldier in her native Germany during World War II. She was only in second grade, but the words her taught her have stayed with her all her life.