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It’s no secret! Parenting will be the hardest job you will ever have. There’s tons of books and not one single manual on how to be a great parent. And things get even more complicated with you meet someone, fall in love, and your families are now blended. When families “blend” to create stepfamilies, things rarely progress smoothly.

But these five rules can help blended families work out their growing pains and live together successfully.

1. Get On The Same Page

Nothing will create stress in a marriage than two parents who are not on the same page. Disagreements over parenting styles, discipline standards, etc., will eventually become full-blown arguments when mixed with the stress of parenting. Be sure the two of you work out any differences before you decide to get married and become a family.

2. Stay United

Children love to play one parent off the other. This is often taken to a whole other level when either the parents are divorced or in blended families. It is vitally important to stay united in the face of the inevitable cries of “You’re not my real Mom/Dad.”

3. Respect Is Non-Negotiable

When parents remarry, children will automatically assume that the new adult is attempting to take the place of the other parent. This generates a natural level of animosity between stepparent and stepchild(ren). In our house, I’ve explained this to my girls, telling them that they don’t have to love Charlotte, they don’t even have to like her, but as the other adult in the house, they do have to respect her.

4. Avoid Even The Appearance Of Favoritism

It is only natural that, at times, the stepparent will favor their natural child, even unintentionally. When these situations arise, be sure to communicate your observations in a non‑confrontational manner. Whatever you do, do not discuss this in front of the other child(ren). Find a time to discuss the issue later or, if this is impractical, ask the other parent to speak to you behind closed doors. Just the appearance of favoritism can lead to resentment, not only between the stepchild(ren) and the stepparent, but between husband and wife as well.

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Above all else, keep the lines of communication open. Give the stepchild(ren) a safe place to come and talk, respectfully, about their feelings about the stepparent. Talk with your spouse often and ask if there’s anything that you need to discuss with your natural children. But most of all, keep talking to each other and to the children.

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