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As a side effect of some volunteering I do, I find myself playing something of an 'uncle' like relationship for some of the children of women I've volunteering with. I love children and am more then happy to play that role, and of course only do so when encouraged to by the parents.

Some of their kids grow attached to me, and as it is now I currently have at least half a dozen sets of kids that look forward to my visits and their parents encourage me to know and be involved with them, acting in something of a quasi uncle like role with the children when visiting. The kids vary in ages, though generally all younger then teens.

I only visit these kids occasionally, Level of contact depends on many things but generally after I'm no longer actively volunteering with them I'll still occasionally visit somewhere between once a month to once every other month.

Many of these kids do not have a traditional father. Most either have a single mother, or two mothers. The father is usually either completely out of the child's life, or plays a minor, and not always positive, role in their lives. Most of the kids are still well adjusted, with two parents that care for them, but I think part of the reason some latch on to me so quickly is because I am a male.

Anyways, I enjoy spending time with and playing with these kids. However, I would love to help encourage the kids in any way I can. I'm wondering if there is anything I can do as an 'Uncle' to help the encourage growth and positive development for the kids; beyond simply playing with them and making them feel important.

Again, the kids are all generally already loved with good parents, in fact it's pretty much guaranteed that the parents are good parents who would raise the children well for me to know the family to begin with. The kids aren't desperate for love or emotional support etc; though occasionally perhaps at least curious about having a male role model (though usually I'm not the sole male role model).

Are there things I can focus on to try to make the most of my limited visits with these kids while I'm with them? Beyond playing and having fun, which is a given, what small things might I try to do to help encourage the children I'm playing 'Uncle' for? Can I really have any impact on them with such infrequent visits, even if they do look forward to them?

  • I think you should either remove all the hints to why you only visit once a month, or be more clear about them, depending on whether you think it's relevant. As it stands, I think it might distract people from the actual question :) – Erik Jul 6 '15 at 18:18
  • @erik it is slightly relevant, in that I justifies a bit why parents are not uncomfortable with my being involved with the children, Short answer would lead to questions and presumption that I'm asking about the children I directly volunteer for, rather then my asking more generally about the other children I end up playing the role of 'uncle' for. Long answer takes too long to go into. If you really must know my last name is Sollenberger, my volunteer and donor history is pretty easy to look up if you must know :P. Just don't let it distract from the question at hand :) – dsollen Jul 6 '15 at 18:50
  • Is "Uncle" a term the families use for you? Otherwise, these just feels like an informal mentorship to me(mentorship such as Big Brother/Big Sister programs, not academic/business), which can be effective – user11394 Jul 9 '15 at 20:13
  • @CreationEdge no uncle is just the term I used for it, it is mentoring. Though the kids I end up being involved with tend to not be in as bad a need of mentors as BBBS, which I have also done and am looking to start up again at some point...thanks for reminding me to follow up with them :) – dsollen Jul 9 '15 at 21:00
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A totally different (and probably complementing) aproach from Ossum's Mom's brilliant answer (+1) would be to make sure that these children feel that they are important to you. That they matter to you as opposed to you being just "that funny person that stops by". That is, talk to them, listen actively and remember what they tell you. At the next visit, show them that you listened by asking a related question.
Examples: If they tell you one month that they will visit the zoo with their school and hope to see the lions, ask what the lions did. Or send a postcard wishing them luck for the upcomming sports match at the correct time. Bring a newspaper clipping about an event that you discussed. ...

Of course, if you volunteer with many children remembering all these facts can be a hassle. I'll let you in a basic sale secret:
Keep a file of these matters and prepare yor next visit by refreshing your memory. Note important upcoming events in your calendar or set a reminder in your phone/computer. You could even track current fads and interests so if you stumble about these .99c Monster High stickers you will know that this will be a "better" gift than $5 worth of chocolate - double gain. This is not cheating, but a small effort that can make a big difference.

To matter to another person is in my experience a great and valuable gift that can have a big impact even if you are a rare visitor.

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For each family, find things you do well or enjoy that the parent(s) do not, and find a fun way to bring the children into your world -- assuming they're old enough for that activity. Do you like fly fishing, but this couple does not? Take the kid(s) fly fishing. Do you like art museums but this family never seems to go to one? Take them to an art museum. Does this single mom not know how to change the oil in her car or build a chicken coop? Have her kid(s) help you do that.

(And yes, I know that one's a stereotype, but I would love it if someone would ask to borrow my daughter the next time they have to repair their deck or put in a new window.)

  • pretty sure the mothers would be as good or better then me at most stereotypical 'guy' things that don't involve a computer lol. but yes I understand your point. – dsollen Jul 9 '15 at 16:24

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