The American Academy of Pediatrics -- on its HealthyChildren.org website -- notes that roughly 20 percent of children who live in homes with two parents are part of blended families. If you're entering a new marriage to a man who has kids from a prior relationship, you'll need to learn how to deal with both the children and their mother. This means forging your own relationship with your stepchildren and figuring out a way to keep the peace with your husband's ex.
Open up an honest dialogue with your soon-to-be stepchildren before the wedding day. Talk to the kids, with your partner, about your upcoming nuptials. Discuss how your marriage to their father will affect them and what changes will take place -- such as you moving into their house. Tell the children that you aren't trying to replace their mother -- because you can't -- but that you have a true interest in getting close to them.
Address any issues that your partner's ex may have about your marriage. Tell her that you have no intention of interfering with her visitations or the schedule that she and your husband have already worked out.
Keep any negative feelings about your stepchildren's mother to yourself or talk about them with your husband in private.
Make time to spend with the children. Plan family activities such as board game night or ice skating, depending on what the kids' tastes and interests are. Ask the children what they want to do, letting them know that you're taking their feelings into consideration.
Talk to your spouse and his ex about the house rules and discipline strategies. Discuss what rules the children are already used to following and how both biological parents have been handling discipline issues. Continue with the same type of discipline that both parents have been using instead of trying to make up your own rules. Keep the discipline consistent between your home and their mom's house.
- Don't intrude in disputes between your spouse and his ex. Although you can provide him with emotional support, don't overstep the boundaries and speak to his children's mother on his behalf.
- Avoid playing the role of mommy. Your husband's children have a mother, and it's not likely that she'll appreciate you trying to take over her role. Instead, build your own relationship with the kids as a stepmom.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.