Dear Savvy Auntie,

I am a long-distance Auntie to two beautiful, bright girls. My eldest niece just turned 11 and already she seems to be having self-esteem issues. My younger niece is nine and is having trouble with school - reading, spelling and math - she may have a learning disability. My sister is a single mom. I want to help my nieces with everything from their confidence to their homework - what can I do to be involved from 400 miles away?

Seeking Self-Esteem

Dear Seeking Self-Esteem,

You are one of many of our Savvy Aunties asking for advice about how to be involved with their nieces and nephews from afar. On one hand, it speaks to the increase in Auntie involvement, and on the other, the difficulties in increased family separations.

The good news is Skype! This is freely available downloadable program that enables you to see and speak with your nieces at no charge.

Since, now-a-days, children are displaying accelerated development, start to think of your 11 year old niece as more like a 13-14 year old. This is a stage of insecurity and shaky self-esteem that relies on peer feedback for one’s identity. Of course a supportive, complimentary, and loving Auntie is helpful, but, you just don’t have the impact that friends do.

That being said, I have a suggestion! Take a look at a teen magazine that has fashion advice and buy your niece the “latest” in clothing or accessories. She will be impressed with your “savvy” fashion sense and it will give you some “street cred” and her some caché with her peers.

Since your nine-year-old niece seems to be having school problems, you might suggest a tutor for a short while. If your sister is not open to this, you can suggest your niece make an after-school appointment with the various teachers for special support.

Please take comfort in knowing that you are in very good company!

Best Wishes,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

Published: April 4, 2011

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