The benefits of spending time with cousins may not be backed by science, but anyone who grew up surrounded by extended family knows that you don’t always need a study to prove that they’re best friends for life! Don’t believe me? Read on to learn about all the wonderful benefits of growing up with cousins. By the end, I bet you’ll want to call yours up and thank them for all that they mean to you!
Why Cousins Make the Best Friends for Life
You grow up with them, you always want to hang out with them, you love them like the family they are. Cousins mark a special place in your childhood memories. If that’s not enough, let me share some of the other wonderful reasons why it’s so great to grow up close to them.
Cousins are fantastic surrogate siblings
If you’re an only child, cousins are the next best thing to actual siblings. In fact, if you ask an only child, they may say that they are even better than having brothers or sisters! A friend of mine has one child and no plans to have more kids due to medical reasons. When her son was about four, he asked her if he could have a brother.
She said to him, “You know that means you’ll have to share your stuff and that you’ll get 50% less of everything, right?” He thought about it for a moment, then looked at her and matter-of-factually said, “I’m good with cousins!”
That same child has a cousin who is also an only, and they’re as close as two siblings could be, even though they’re four years apart. They laugh, play, argue occasionally, have inside jokes, and everything else that brothers do. If your kids do have brothers and sisters, well, the more the merrier!
They definitely make family gatherings more fun
Whether you’re just getting together for the afternoon on the holidays or spending an entire week sleeping over with them on a family trip, cousins definitely make family gatherings a whole lot more fun. Not only do they give you someone to play with (or, as adults, chat with), but they’re always on the periphery, just waiting to save you from listening to uncle Johnny talk about the economy for two hours straight.
Cousins understand all your family’s odd inside jokes
They totally get your family’s unique dynamics and inside jokes better than anyone outside the circle ever could. Don’t believe me? Try bringing a new friend to your next family reunion! Then, see how much time you spend trying to explain why no one mentions camels near grandpa and clowns around aunt Sally, or why everyone laughs when aunt Josephine says she’s getting a dog!
You’re always happy to see them
My kids have a lot of cousins and they absolutely LOVE them. They are always so happy to see them when we have family functions. Fights are rare because they know each other so well. They’re as close as siblings but without all the sibling drama.
When you don’t see each other every single day all day long, it’s easier to put aside petty arguments over things like toys, who got the bigger piece of cake, and other little things that can rapidly evolve into a huge sibling spat. You just hang out and have fun together, letting the small things slide.
They help us connect to our family history
One of the greatest things about cousins that we often don’t appreciate until we’re older is, they help us connect the dots and fill in the gaps in our family history. Older ones can share stories about grandparents that younger ones never had the chance to get to know. Second cousins who grew up a generation before us have unique tales about our parents’ younger years. When you start getting into the stories, you can really learn a lot about family members that you didn’t even know existed. That’s why family reunions are so beneficial!
Cousins understand our unique grief over losing grandparents
As much as we never want to think about it, we will all lose our grandparents at some point. When that sad day comes, do yourself a favor and surround yourself with cousins. See, while everyone else in the family is grieving, they’re all grieving the loss of something different. Mom (or dad), aunts, and uncles lost their parent. Your favorite great-uncle lost his sibling. Your grandfather lost his wife (or vice-versa).
No one aside from your own siblings and your cousins knows just how it feels to lose your grandparent. While they can’t make it stop hurting, they can share stories that are unique to your generation and help ease the pain just a little.
Tips for helping your kids bond with long-distance cousins
For cousins who live close together or at least see each other frequently at family functions, bonding happens fairly naturally. But what if you live on opposite sides of the country (or even in different countries entirely!)? How can they bond with someone that they’ve maybe seen once or twice in their entire lives?
Actually, it’s easier than ever, thanks to modern technology! Older kids (teens and up) can interact through social media, texts, phone calls, and so on. For younger kids, you may have to work just a little harder, but there are still plenty of things that you can do. Here are a few of my favorite ideas.
- Set up regular Zoom or Facetime chats. Even if your kids are young and only spend a few minutes talking to each other, it helps them feel connected.
- Have Facetime craft time. Here’s how it work- you and your sibling decide on a craft for everyone to do together (or just subscribe to the same craft subscription box if that’s easier). Load up Facetime and let your kids have a long-distance crafting session together.
- Have your kids write actual letters back and forth to each other. Bonus: they’ll get to practice their writing in a fun way.
- Bring back “Flat Stanley!” Remember when everyone was sending around a paper doll and taking him on grand adventures about a decade or so ago? We’d write about his adventures, take pictures of him with us, and so on. Why not create something like that for all of the kids in your family? Send your own version of Stanley back and forth to each other, switching maybe every month, along with a journal of his activities.
- Set up your own “cousins-only” family website. You can use something like WordPress to set it up and password-protect it so that only your family can access it. Then, use a free plugin to create a message board on it.
Cousins truly are best friends for life and through all that life throws at us. They’re laughing at inside jokes with you during the happy times and holding your hand through the sad moments. True friends that have all the best stories, know all the family secrets, and most important of all, always love you just for who you are. Now, go call your cousins and tell them that you love them!
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