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10 ways of dealing with Stepchildren:

1. Don't expect too much too soon. You will not gain instant acceptance. A Stepfamily is created from loss, so there is a lot of grief and pain that needs to be dealt with before true acceptance can begin.

2. Don't become a disciplinarian to your Stepchildren too soon. It takes some very careful planning with your spouse to create a new set of rules and a new philosophy for dealing with a blended family. It also takes trust; both from the parents and the children. Take it slowly, be patient and don't make the mistake of saying: "Don't make me tell your mother/father!".

3. Create a plan that treats the full-time children and the part-time children fairly. Stability and structure will provide security to children (and adults!) who are recovering from divorce. Don't be a "Disneyland Parent". If something goes wrong, treat all of the children in a consistent manner.

4. BE CONSISTENT! When you make a rule, stick to it! Follow through with everything. If you slack, there will be problems.

5. Make consequences and rewards. A rule of physics: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." The same goes with good and bad behavior. If you create well-defined consequences for bad behavior there will be no second guessing or contradictions. The same goes for good behavior. This is also a good way for a Stepparent to begin working with discipline. The goal here is to teach children to self-discipline...then there will be no need for consequences.

6. Make new rituals. You are a new family! Create something new as a family. Go out to breakfast every Sunday. Go fishing on a certain holiday. Do something that wasn't done in the previous families. Make the Stepfamily yours and bond with new traditions.

7. Be an adult. If your Stepchild screams "I hate you!", don't scream "I hate you too!". You are an adult, act like one. You must disconnect from instant anger. It's okay to voice frustration, but don't do it out of anger. Do not let the children get to you. If they are, then put some distance between you and them until you can get a better handle on your emotions.

8. Let them know your feelings. Hopefully you have the desire to love your Stepchildren. If you don't, you haven't got a prayer! It's not hard to love...just let yourself do it. Tell them you love them, but don't expect to hear it back. Just do it for you. They'll reward you when they're ready.

9. Let them call you what they want--as long as it's respectful. If they want to call you by your first name, LET THEM! Don't make them call you Daddy (they already have one). They will find a name for you, accept it and be happy.

10. NEVER, NEVER talk badly about their other parent! Sure, their dad may be a drunk, mom may be a crack whore...so what. To the children, their parents are probably gods. Respect their feelings for their parents, to do less will only harm you.

Try this and see where it takes you.

There have been countless movies and sitcoms made in the past decade or so dealing with stepparenting and second marriages. I don't watch as many as most, but at least half a dozen must have paraded themselves before my eyes before I reached adulthood.

Most of them seemed to revolve around the same crisis: single parent meets member of the opposite sex, single parent gradually falls in love, single parent's only child becomes resentful through a combination of having their absent parent "replaced" and no longer being the center of their remaining parent's attention. Invariably, of course, the crisis is resolved within an hour or so on-screen. But anyone who's lived outside their own four walls will know that that never happens in Real Life. Sometimes, you're lucky if that kind of crisis is resolved in thirty years, let alone thirty minutes.

So I was a wee bit wary when I started dating a single mother myself. I knew how important her eleven-year-old daughter was to her from the very beginning, and I admired that. I was also aware of their love/hate relationship to the girl's father, and that he was still part of the picture for at least two weekends a month. I remembered all those sitcoms and movies, and was determined I would never become one of "those" stepfathers. I just didn't know quite how to go about it.

All I knew was that there was no way for me to have the mother in my life without the daughter. Not that I ever wanted it that way; the daughter was a sweet and caring girl, impossible not to love if you spent any amount of time with her. The two were a package deal, emotionally bound together; I'd never have one without the other.

And then I went ahead. The mother and I quickly fell in love. The daughter accepted me almost from the very beginning. And while we're still working out the kinks in our three-way relationship, none of the three of us could have been happier to see the mother and I be married just one year after we began seeing each other.

I wracked my brain to come up with ten ways to advise other people to make their relationship with their stepchildren easier. But all I could come up with was one: Your stepchildren are already part of your spouse's life. Love them just as much as you do your partner.

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