Making Up for Lost Time

I Barely Know My Nieces and Nephews

Dear Katie,
After years of trying to save my daughter, I realized that I was so focused on her that I barely know my nieces and nephews. It seemed like every time there was a family gathering, some kind of crisis occurred with my daughter, and I didn’t attend. Time just flew by, and I feel like a horrible aunt. I love my sister so much; she has been there for me every step of the way, and I want to build a relationship with her children. What do you suggest? —Kirsten 

Dear Jackie,
It’s wonderful that you want to do this! It sounds like you have a strong bond with your sister and are very lucky to have her. I would start with being honest. Tell her what you just wrote to me—being honest, transparent, and vulnerable will help begin the conversation. Acknowledge your realization as well as your gratitude for her being there for you. Then suggest a gathering at your home or a park—something that is not holiday or birthday related, where you can just relax and focus on beginning this new journey.

Keep in mind, it will be challenging to get to know everyone individually in a group setting. Make it a priority to interact with each niece or nephew alone when you have even the slightest of chances. You can start with just observing them from afar. Take note of some things. Is your nephew wearing the latest sneakers and spending most of the family gathering wiping them off and fixing the bottom of his jeans to sit just right on the shoe? If so, what does this tell you? He likes his shoes! But why? And he cares about his appearance. But why? And he’s meticulous and perhaps even a bit anal. But why? You now have at LEAST three ways to connect with him. Maybe you love fashion and shoes, too! Talk about that. Do your best to find something that is an “in” and go from there. 

No matter their ages, your nieces or nephews may not be super-receptive to your efforts at first, but keep trying, because family is so important. They’re the next generation, and getting to know them is totally worth the effort.

Warm wishes,

Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.

Katie Donovan is a family, life, and relationship coach; keynote speaker; and writer with a passion for empowering women. She has been interviewed on ABC, NBC, and Fox Sports and featured in cover stories in Time and Money magazines. Katie’s award-winning blog,, reached over a million views and was seen in 146 countries within thirty days of its inception and has been syndicated in over thirty publications, including USA Today and Disney’s blog Babble.

Are you struggling to get your inner sparkle back? Have the relationships with your partner, family, or friends been affected? Ask me anything! You can send a confidential email to with Shift Happens in the subject line.

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