Note: A week ago I learned of my cousin’s tragic death. I have been hurting all week as I’ve thought of her life and death, but I found some solace in hugging my other cousins as we met to memorialize her and her husband. While I can’t possibly write of this event, I will eventually write of its impact. In the meantime, I want to share an article I found about cousins. I am fortunate to know and love MANY cousins – after all, my grandmother birthed 13 children!!! My cousins were an important part of my childhood, including the one and only Beckie Sue.
The role of cousins is an often-neglected dynamic within the intricate workings of family relationships. It can be a powerful bond and profound influence on our children. By fostering the unique ties that cousins share, we can nurture a sense of familiarity, stability and family history that will enrich their lives.
Cousins provide an instant peer group, where children have the chance to mingle with kids of different ages and the opposite sex within the comfort and safety of the family setting. Knowing that they have a history and a bloodline in common gives them a sense of connectedness and a greater appreciation of their roots. If close family ties are encouraged, the pattern of maintaining family unity can be preserved across successive generations.
Relating to cousins allows children the opportunity to expand their social circle. Rivalries between cousins are usually less intense than among brothers and sisters, therefore that relationship is often less conflicted. A cousin is like a sibling without the baggage. Not as close as a brother and sister, they still share a sense of family without many of the negative emotions associated with nuclear family problems. They can explore and witness close interpersonal relationships at a comfortable distance.
In befriending a cousin, a child can find a convenient ally when confronting siblings or other adult family members. Because cousins relate on a different level, the love and companionship that they develop can blossom into a friendship that is longer lasting and deeper than with a traditional friend. An older cousin can serve as a mentor and role model, providing guidance and support to a younger relative.
Often cousins only get together at eventful family gatherings (such as weddings) or times of family adversity (like funerals). They turn to each other for fun, comfort and support as the entire family navigates its way through the various stages of life. Grandparents, especially, can be instrumental in strengthening their grandkids’ relationships with each other. They can be the vehicles by which family members keep in touch. By reinforcing the importance of these ties, the connected extended family can strengthen the fabric of the nuclear family and forge kinships that can last a lifetime.
By making an effort to keep in touch with each other, aunts and uncles/ mothers and fathers/grandmas and grandpas remind youngsters that relatives, especially cousins, are valuable family treasures. It draws attention to the fact that children belong to a something bigger in this world and are part of a unique group that is different yet the same. Mining this often under-appreciated resource can perpetuate the special ties that exist between people that share common, blood, history and experiences.