Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Aunt Wants Better Relationship With Nephew and Niece

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a 6-year-old nephew and 2-year-old niece who live far away from me. This makes it difficult to establish that traditional relationship that aunts have with their siblings' children.

I try my best to Skype them at least once a month and have gone to visit them a few times since they were born. However, I feel a disconnect with the kids. The older they get, the more unwilling and uncomfortable they are to talk and communicate with me. I am having trouble understanding where this disconnect is coming from, when I try my best to communicate with them often. I know that they are only kids, but it hurts my feelings. How should I bring this situation to my brother and his wife without sounding overly sensitive? -- Distant Auntie

DEAR DISTANT AUNTIE: You should talk to your brother and his wife and let them know how important it is to you that you build a meaningful bond with their children. Ask for their support in making that happen. If they create anticipation around your monthly calls, this may inspire their children to get excited. They are still very young, so their attention spans are short. Think about how you want to engage them when you get them on Skype. Can you share a short story about an experience they might be interested in? It could be about pets, nature or some other topic of mutual interest.

If you are able, talk to their parents about inviting them to spend a week or weekend with you once a year. Establishing a relationship with them on your turf may help to foster a special bond with them. Finally, be patient. They are young. If you remain persistent, something will blossom.