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!
Ironically We just had a first ever, last minute reunion with my cousins.
We had become distant due to our parent’s conflicts where none of us knew why our parents weren’t talking to one another, up to now…we still don’t know.. One living aunt (my mom) was there, out of the 18 cousins 7 were able to attend, 2nd & 3rd Cousins were there as well. Four generations in which some, meeting for the first time.
We hadn’t seen some of our cousins in over 30+ year!!
We laughed, reminisced, and made new memories.
Creative Healthy Family says
Thank you. And thanks for sharing your story!
I love the notion of this. Because one of my closest friends is my first cousin. We grew up together, along with our brothers because our mothers were sisters and also best friends. We all saw each other every chance we could, our mothers included. So in many ways we feel more like siblings. My male cousin and my brother BOTH gave me away at my wedding. And it was a real treasure of a moment. BUT…a great article for you perhaps…My cousins have a third sibling and she and her sister do NOT get along at all. They both have kids though and their mother (my aunt) is insistent that the ‘cousins’ spend time together as kids as it’s so important. I disagree because this is based on OUR childhood dynamic that was based solely on the close friendship our mothers shared. I think it could be a great thing to explore…the idea that perhaps it’s totally ok, and possibly healthier, for cousins to not spend loads of time together when their parents do not like/respect each other. That is my opinion on the matter. Now, if I had kids (which I do not), my kids would spend a TON of time with my cousin’s kids because us adults have similar values and genuine affection for each other – which the kids PICK UP ON. Same goes if the opposite is true. It’s a bigger conversation but your article was sent to me from my sweet cousin and I made sure to remind her that just because kids are cousins, doesn’t mean their parents need to feel obliged to put them all together. Could be better to become almost-family with close friends because your values are in alignment.
Linda H Craddock says
Great words because I grew up with plenty cousins on both my Mom @ Dad’s sides!!’ We had fun and had sleepovers and fought at times because my brother would try to steal the hirld from me!! I did not care about the boys being with us girls!!! But we grew closer to the guys when we were teenagers!! Some of the best friends I ever had were my cousins and they still ate!!!
In reality the Reunion is often a funeral of one of the parent (💝) The LOVE In that room is real
That is true. Our family funerals end up being a reunion. Everyone updates contact information by passing around their phones. No questions are needed. . Homes are open to the out of towners. The Shenanigans are continued the next day.
Lydia Sharp says
Ah yes…I am 88 years old and I still enjoy the memories from my own childhood with my many cousins….FIRST, SECOND and THIRD COUSINS Our family has always enjoyed having “Cousins Parties” often throughout the year. We have holiday parties, wedding and baby showers and parties for visiting cousins, All of us are cousins whether or not we are blood .related because we’ve grown up together, so we LOVE like we are blood related. We are ALL so thankful for our close family relationships.
Nancy Williamson says
I started out with 6 first Cousins on my Mom’s side and 4 first Cousins on my Dad’s side and we all had a wonderful life together back in the day.
ButI only have one first Cousins left on my Dad’s side He’s very close to me.And I have all. 6 of my cousin s left on my Mom’s side the first Born he an. Where Both born on same day. and year same month but in a different State. and close to the same time I am 30 mints. Older than him.
The only thing he got mad at me soon after Dessert Storm War was over and he came home .He and I never talked Amy more a d I don’t know why. I love him so much . we had such a great fun time when. We where kids . and he has twin sisters in his family. I pray that some day we will get back to being friends once more. I know War Chang’s thangs. And his Mother use to bring me handy down clothes from her oldest girl s Debbie or I would not have had nice clothes to ware .if it had not have been for that. To me it was like Christmas
Stephanie Trumps says
I cherish my cousins. My dad died over thirty years ago and my cousins on his side had lost contact long time ago. Went separate ways lived our lives. In 2018 3 of us from three of us. All from separated parents, 2 brothers and one from a sister. Treasures I will hold dear to my heart cause we still do things together but more often and more and more cousins are joining in Celebration of Reuniting. Thank you God. For helping me keep my dads memories and wishes alive today after all these years..
Thanks for the reminder
There are 11 cousins on my Mom’s side. We grew up very close. Keeping in touch was more sporadic as we moved around the country and were busy raising families of our own, but now, spouses included, we try to get together for a week each year, we meet once a week on the Internet via WebEx (similar to Zoom) and keep in touch with group texts. It’s been such a blessing to reconnect. There’s nothing like the bond of family!
Bonnie Deveau says
For all my GILMORE cousins: We have shared a long family history with our ancestors arrival in NB in 1792/93 and even better have shared a yearly gathering since 1966. Today as we look forward to another reunion picnic we are afraid it may not happen! Maybe we will have to find a less “hugging” visit, change the date and find ways to gather while distancing and still share the day. Still we will find a way to have some sort of COUSIN VISIT in spite of the restrictions because we are GILMORE COUSINS!
JoAnn Danielson says
My cousins are my best friends. They are my sibblings, and so loved!
Hmmmm neat article…. however one little thing, a “second cousin” is not one who grew up a generation before… me…… a 2nd cousin is the same generation as me, a child of a cousin of one of my parents. One who grew up a generation before me is a 1st cousin “once removed”…
Beverly Curtis Rieger says
I truly enjoyed reading this and it made me miss family reunions that our Grandparents started years and years ago. It was always so much fun to get together with everyone from all over the country. We had a close knit family with 24 aunts and uncles and all of their children. The cousins had Entertainment for all to watch. We had prayers and devotions together as a family. As the years have passed by, we have lost our grandparents to the heavenly kingdom and our Aunts and Uncles began to continue the tradition of our reunions. As they began to aging, it became the responsibility of the cousins to plan our get togethers. I remember having a reunion in our hometown. We had a great time with our children taking pictures in black and white and we dressed up in old time clothing. We had a great time again with great conversation, playing, praying and loving each other. Now all of our Aunts and Uncles, mothers and fathers are passing away to our heavenly father. We have one Aunt left who is in her late 80s who can’t travel long distances anymore. That leaves 2nd and 3rd cousins to get to know each other because the 1st cousins are at the age that they will begin passing on – does that mean that our family will have no more family? Not if you are interested in learning about one another. I MISS THOSE DAYS.
Thanks for thinking of me Tucker Love Kate
Dick Bergeron says
Loved this posting.