Those lucky enough to have grown up with extended family nearby, like a favorite uncle, know the importance of the role. An uncle can initiate messy-yet-fun activities that a compulsively neat parent wouldn't dream of doing or offer driving lessons to a teen with nervous or impatient parents. Young, unattached uncles are often fun, but married uncles may provide playmates in the form of cousins. For fortunate nieces or nephews, this important family member can fill multiple roles, ranging from male role model to possible financial support.
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Male Role Model
Twenty-four percent of children lived with a single mother in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Single-parent households cause stress for children and parents alike, but family members can make a difference, asserts the American Psychological Association. An uncle can step up in a situation where Dad isn't present and offer support to children. He can provide a stable influence for nieces and nephews who might not otherwise have a good male role model.
An uncle can provide a different perspective on career choices and success in general. Relatives can provide teens with important information about their own career or even provide job-shadowing opportunities when the child is old enough, suggests Michigan State University. In addition, an uncle can share a hobby that inspires a child to want to learn more or try new things. Teens in particular may choose to listen to a favorite uncle's advice, even when they're convinced that their parents don't know anything.
Inevitably, parents encounter times when money becomes tight. An uncle, depending on his financial situation, may be able to help in small ways, perhaps contributing to a holiday gift or by taking nieces and nephews to purchase school supplies or winter coats. Almost any child appreciates and will remember fondly a birthday card from an uncle that contains money or a coveted gift card.
One of the most rewarding roles an uncle can fill is simply to be a friend. The "friend" role can change over the years and still remain intact into adulthood. Make a point to ask nieces and nephews about school, sports and friends, and pay attention to important happenings in a youngster's life. Plan outings like going fishing, visiting the zoo or taking your niece to a professional sporting event. Tell funny stories about your sibling (the child's parent) growing up. Be willing to play silly games, make pillow forts or attend a stuffed animal tea party. Your presence over the years will probably be appreciated more than you realize.