Parenting: Kids and Cousins

The Murphy kids visiting their west coast cousins.

March 30, 2011 6:17:18 AM PDT
The Murphy kids have cousins who live far away, which makes it tough to stay in touch.

Cousins in our family also cover a wide range of ages. Some cousins are so much older than our kids the cousins seem more like aunts and uncles. Nonetheless, we've made an attempt to keep the lines of communication open between branches of the family, even where distance limits the practicality of it. In some cases, this has had benefits we could not have foreseen.

I have three sisters who produced a total of three nieces and three nephews. My wife has one brother with two sons, so that makes eight first cousins available to my kids. The two boys on my wife's side have remained mainly in and around the Philadelphia area, so it's been easy to for my kids to establish familiar relationships with them, at least during holiday visits and summer get-togethers. This, frankly, has made holidays more fun for my kids over the years, because these two guys are similar in age and have more to talk about away from the dinner table. Other cousins are older but are also regularly seen a holiday dinners, which has also made for a nice sense of family for my kids. A niece who was older and had lived in far away locations recently got married and moved back to the area, which has meant a nice re-connect over the last 12 months. My kids are happy to know her again, and are looking forward to having a relationship with her young family.

The niece and nephew from Oregon, on the other hand, have been a lot tougher to keep close. Every three or four years, on average, we'd make the trek west or they'd make the trek east. It wasn't easy, but was always worth it. Not only do I enjoy visiting with my sister and her husband, the cousins (who are very similar in age to my tow older kids) always hit it off very well.

As it turns out, even that limited exposure came in handy, in terms of how our family now spends part of the holidays. A few years ago, my nephew entered college in upstate New York. With the short Thanksgiving break, there isn't enough time for him to get home to Oregon. So, as a freshman, my sister asked if we'd be willing to host him. Not only were we willing, my kids were instantly excited about it. It's gotten to the point where now, we'd be pretty disappointed if we didn't see him, as it's become a very nice part of the holiday tradition. We upped the ante earlier this winter, when the entire family, cousins and all, met in Florida at my mother's place for a super reunion.

The point here is that cousins, whether local or distant, make up an important but sometimes overlooked part of your kid's family perspective. Assuming family relations are good, you'd be doing yourself a favor by keeping in touch with distant brothers and sisters and making the effort to see them, at least occasionally. A bonus is the relationship you may find your kids developing with cousins, relationships that can add greatly to their sense of family.

---David Murphy

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