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Coparenting

Want A Happy Blended Family? 5 Rules Stepparents MUST Follow

Love and respect is earned from a child, not demanded.

If you're thinking of marrying someone with kids, or if you've got kids and you're getting married, your kids are going to gain a stepparent. Blended families are challenging and cause stress on your marriage.

However, here are five rules for being a stepparent that help improve harmony in both your marriage and your blended family:

1. A stepparent is NOT the parent. A stepparent is a "bonus" parent in a child's life. As a bonus parent, giving gifts in an effort to buy a child's affection will not gain the status of new best friend. Your role is as another safe adult for the child to interact with. Your job is to model healthy life perspectives that complement those of their biological parents.

2. A stepparent co-creates the rules for their house with their spouse (the child's parent). By co-creating the rules and supporting each other in their enforcement, you avoid becoming the evil stepparent. You'll also create a home that you and your spouse will enjoy.

3. You can—and should—expect respect from the child, and showrespect as well. As in any relationship, there will be times of struggle in the stepparent/stepchild relationship. Mutual respect…

Read more: Want A Happy Blended Family? 5 Rules Stepparents MUST Follow

4 Ways to Give Kids of Divorce The Gift of a Guilt-Free Holiday

Why you need to put YOUR issues aside and let your kids be kids!

For way too many children of divorce, the holidays aren’t very merry at all. Instead, of being a season of fun and magic, it becomes a season filled with confusion, guilt and worry.

Kids of divorce experience confusion because they have a hard time keeping track of schedules of when they’re going to be with Mom, when they’re going to be with Dad, and when they’re going to be with their friends. I witnessed this confusion and guilt first-hand with my “bonus sons” (a.k.a. stepsons) the first time we all spent a holiday together. Not only did our youngest, Cameron (who was only 13 at the time) need to fly across the country during the hectic holiday season (changing planes along the way); his adult brother, Anthony, had to come with him to make sure Cam arrived safe and sound. Though both boys were extremely happy to spend time with their dad, they went through a lot of stress while the adults in their lives got to remain right where we were.

During their visit, I innocently asked the boys about their Christmas. And wow, it was as if…

Read more: 4 Ways to Give Kids of Divorce The Gift of a Guilt-Free Holiday

3 Priceless (Yet Practical!) Tips For Co-Parenting After Divorce

Here's some parenting advice for whatever stage of separation or divorce you're in.

Raising kids is a huge job made even trickier when dealing with separation and divorce. Although there are no easy answers, here is my best parenting advice for rising to the challenge. This may seem like an odd question, but how many times have you heard a flight attendant say the following?

"In case there is a loss in cabin pressure, yellow oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling compartment located above you. To secure, pull the mask towards you, secure the elastic strap to your head, and fasten it so it covers your mouth and nose. Breathe normally. Even if the bag does not inflate, please keep in mind that oxygen is flowing. Please make sure to secure your own mask before assisting others."

You hear it every single time you fly. No exceptions.

I think that getting divorced and a sudden loss of cabin pressure during flight have a lot in common. They're both scary and you need to take care of yourself first. Unless you're able to think clearly and take action when it's needed, you won't do anyone else any good. And, believe it or not, taking care…

Read more: 3 Priceless (Yet Practical!) Tips For Co-Parenting After Divorce

Getting Divorced? Why You May Still Need A Family Therapist

Think you can only call in a family therapist to piece back together your relationship? Think again.

When you got married, you created a family — a family of two. Over the years your family may have expanded to include a goldfish, a dog or cat, and kids. What if you you decide to get divorced? You may not think so at the time, but you're still a family — a family with two homes, but still a family. That's why working with a family therapist, a helping professional who specializes in looking at a family as a whole, may be just the person to help you and your ex navigate the choppy waters of divorce.

You're probably wondering something like "How do I know if a family therapist would be helpful to my specific situation?" My best answer is to look at each family member individually. Has any one of them had marked changes in behavior (especially exhibiting combative behavior), or started relying inappropriately on other family members? If even one of your family members fits these descriptions, chances are your family could benefit from working with a therapist.

When changes like these happen suddenly, it's easy to admit that professional help is called for. What happens…

Read more: Getting Divorced? Why You May Still Need A Family Therapist

Dating After Divorce? Consider Blended Families

Bonus children, FTW!

When it comes to dating for re-singled (a.k.a. divorced) parents, odds are that the people you're dating will have kids of their own, too. Thoughts of entering into a serious relationship or even remarriage gives many re-singled parents cause for pause if not outright alarm because we've all heard the stories about evil stepparents since we were little (thank you, Cinderella!).

But that's not how it has to be! With a bit of work, It's possible to create successful blended families.

My husband and I met online through eHarmony. The picture he used for his profile was an adorable one of him with his youngest son (now my bonus son). When we had our first date, one of the things I asked him about was his kids.

Boy, talk about a conversation killer! He made it clear that he didn't want to talk about them. I laughed a bit when he told me this and told him that he should probably consider changing his profile picture in light of that! Luckily, we found other things to talk about and wound up enjoying our evening.

What I didn't know then was that his first attempt at a blended family didn't turn…

Read more: Dating After Divorce? Consider Blended Families