Start with a frank conversation.
If you have an aunt or uncle who doesn’t have children of their own, Dr. Laxmin said, it’s almost as if you have to learn a different language. “You’re not well versed in the world of being a parent. TV shows, toys, all the struggles,” she said. “It’s really hard to know what questions to ask.”
It can be helpful to start by asking your siblings what their hopes and expectations are for you, said Joseph S. Tan, MD, clinical psychologist in the Department of Family Medicine at UVA Health in Virginia.
“Different people have different needs and different wants,” Dr. Tan said, “and some things they like to handle on their own, and other things they want a little help with.” He also recommends being honest about what you’re expecting with this budding relationship, and why you need your brother’s help.
Right after your niece or nephew is born, you can support your sibling with a little more effort in the beginning, Dr. Laxmin said. Maybe that means taking care of the kids or helping with the laundry every Wednesday. Or if you live far away, suggests Dr. Laxmin, you can send your sibling one dinner per week for a few weeks.
“Things like this, which are not necessarily related to your relationship with your niece or nephew,” she said, “but supporting your siblings in difficult times, so that your siblings know,’ Hey, here I am, I want to join in.'”
Create a regular ritual.
Experts said planning one night a week that you’ll read a story in person or together on Zoom, or an annual vacation for the whole family, can lighten your sibling’s burden and strengthen family ties, experts said. Can do.
“The key is something routine,” said Dr. Laxmin, so that the parents know, “Thursday night we don’t have to worry about dinner because it’s going to be takeout that my sister is going to send. Or on Saturday nights I get 20 minutes of free time to have a glass of wine in peace because Joy is about to get a Zoom book.'”