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Health & Parenting

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9 Stepparenting Dos and Don'ts

By Colleen Oakley
WebMD Feature

Despite what shows like TheBrady Bunch and Modern Family would have us believe, stepparenting is hard. "Blending a family is like a dish that takes a long time to cook," says Molly Barrow, PhD, author of How To Survive Step Parenting. "You can't force it before it's ready."

But if you're patient and take the following tips to heart, the rewards are well worth the effort. These nine tips can help.

1. DON'T come on too strong.

"Many stepparents try too hard to create an instant bond," says Christina Steinorth, MFT, author of Cue Cards for Life: Gentle Reminders for Better Relationships. "Though they have good intentions, many stepparents try to buy their stepchild's love through lots of gifts or by being the really cool parent. Kids can see right through that." Be realistic -- and be yourself. You'll have a better chance of developing that close relationship you long for.

2. DO get on the same parenting page with your new spouse -- and his or her ex.

"All the parents need to discuss their methods -- rewards, punishments, chores, allowances, bedtimes, homework -- and come to an agreement about the rules," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. "The transition is much easier if the parents are in accord. If something happens you haven't discussed, just defer to one parent, and work it out later."

3. DO encourage your stepchild to have one-on-one time with both of his or her biological parents.

"Some stepparents are threatened by their stepchildren spending time alone with their biological parent -- especially their spouse's ex -- but they shouldn't be," Steinorth says. "When you're supportive of it, you're sending the message that this isn't a competition for affection and that you truly want to see your stepchildren happy."

4. DO have family meetings weekly.

Give everyone, including the kids, a chance to share how they feel, what they like and don't like, and ask them to share both positive and negative opinions," Tessina says. "Ask for suggestions about how to make things better."

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