Tips on how to do your best as a step parent

by | May 22, 2017

Listen to the full interview.

It’s not easy being a step parent.

Clinical psychologist Jeanie Cavé says most step parents have good intentions but are frustrated because their role in society is not clearly defined.

Most step parents aren’t evil; they are just really frustrated…. Where do they fit in?

— Jeanie Cavé, clinical psychologist

She explains how step parents have been vilified throughout history in film and literature.

Cavé advises that step parents face a lot of pressure to resolve the anxieties of step children, due to lack of communication from their biological parents.

We often say the child is not giving you a hard time, their having a hard time.

— Jeanie Cavé, clinical psychologist

She offered the following advice to step parents trying to do their best:

  • Talk things through

Cavé explains that it is important to establish roles, boundaries and open channels of communication between step parents and step children.

She says step parents can find themselves alternating between feelings of guilt and resentment if they don’t.

Clear communication and effective expression of needs will help prevent that.

— Jeanie Cavé, clinical psychologist

  • Focus on your relationship with the child

According to Cavé, it is important for step parents to separate their relationship with their partner from their relationship with the step child(ren).

The child is a person, not a project. It’s not your responsibility to make sure how this child turns out, you won’t be marked on how they turn out at the end of the day.

— Jeanie Cavé, clinical psychologist

She says that the adult must build credibility, trust, empathy and respect over time with the child in order to set up boundaries.

  • Don’t point fingers

Cavé says it is important to foster a non-blaming, non-judgmental environment within the family.

  • Find what works for your family

Family dynamics differ from household to household and Cavé advises that it is important for families to figure out their own unique ways of dealing with differences or discipline.

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