I am a mom, step-mom, daughter, and step-daughter. I have only ever known the blended family lifestyle. It is complex and I can see how it might be difficult for someone who has not lived it to understand. With the help of my step-daughter, we are going to lay out a few rules using our own life lessons that we have learned from.
Sissy is my husbands daughter from his previous marriage. Most people don't know because she lives with us, acts like me, and we follow these rules. ;)
#1. Treat all of your children the same. No. Matter. What.
If you only have one child, you are exempt from this rule.
We may be a little harder on the boys because they are younger. They have to learn the same lessons that we had to teach her when she was their age. We reward them the same and punish them the same. We spend the same amount on each child on birthdays and Christmas. Even though she has twice the families and gets twice the amount of gifts. BECAUSE SHE IS AN EQUAL CHILD. SHE IS NOT HALF THE CHILD BECAUSE ONLY HALF OF HER BIOLOGICAL PARENTS LIVE IN THIS HOUSE! (I only put that part in there and in all caps because I have heard it much more than once. Sad but true) Do not show more attention or affection to one child over another. It makes them feel less than no matter how old they are. Trust me. Sissy is 13, we still have the same bedtime routine for all of our children. As long as she is under my care, I will still hug her goodnight and make she is tucked in before I go to bed. She will know that at 5, 13, or 25, she is my child and she will always be treated as if I gave birth to her myself.
#2 Your home is their home
Most children have 2 homes in blended families. Each one should feel like home. There are kids that live with mom and do not have a bed or clothes at dad's house. And the other way around. This can make a child feel like they are an inconvenience or just another visitor. Where do I sleep? Where do I change my clothes? Do I unpack my overnight bag? You don't have to go out and spend a fortune of furniture and apparel but do your best to make sure they know that they belong and are wanted even if you only see them once a week.
#3 Listen to your child
Sissy and I have always had a very open relationship. She has to respect me as a parent but she can chat with me about anything and more than she would with just another girlfriend. Because of this, I know EVERYTHING about ANYTHING that goes on. Her mom and I have visited about this many times and we both love how this works for Sissy. She knows that Mom is always there but she says it is really easy to unload her thoughts on me. So, Mom knows that I will come to her with anything that directly involves Sissy and Sissy always has a safe outlet.
This is for the parents and step-parents:
If your child has a complaint about another parent or step-parent, Listen.
It is your duty to protect your children. period.
Have a family meeting or whatever floats your boat and get down to the bottom of it. Make sure your child knows that they are being heard, safe from future attacks, and that you are there to help.
#4 Do not bully.
Do not bully. Do not Bully. Duh, right? It's going on this list for a reason. If you are ugly to your step-children or children you are going to have hell to pay later. Mark my words. I have seen it happen WAY to many times. NOTHING good will come from being mean to a child.
#5 Respect each other
This goes for all the parents and children. Sissy's mom and I have a great relationship but it was not always easy. We have disagreed and ticked each other off but our friendship gets stronger all the time. No matter how bad things get, do not talk trash in front of the kiddos.
We are setting the example of marriage and parenting for our children.
Make sure you are setting a good one.
I am not a doctor or counselor.
My opinions are based on my own life experiences.