A recent study is a great reminder that those of us raising other people’s children can have a strong positive impact on our children.  The study followed over 2000 young individuals for more than 15 years, examining their perceptions of family and mentor relationships, self-reported stress levels, and diagnosed depression and anxiety.

The findings were quite remarkable. Young people who reported having at least one strong adult relationship had a significantly lower likelihood of experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression later in life. In other words, if we can establish a nurturing relationship with our children, as mentors or Plan B parents, we can help them toward positive mental health.

One surprising finding offers a cautionary note for many of us. Higher family religiosity was associated with increased perceived stress levels when individuals had experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). It is important to note that this study is the first to report such a correlation, and we need more research to fully understand its implications.  Nevertheless, those of us with strong religious beliefs need to remember not to pressure our kids to agree with us.  Of course, most of us believe that our beliefs will make our children happier, but we have to be certain that they feel they have the freedom to make their own decisions, whether we agree or not.

The part of the study that is consistent with previous research is the most important takeaway.  If we can establish strong mentoring relationships with our children, we can be a positive support for their healthy emotional and psychological development.  Even though we are not the people who are supposed to be in our kids’ lives, we can still serve an important role as their Plan B parents.


Debbie Ausburn

Helping foster parents and stepparents learn how to be the person who is not supposed to be there.