My mom, though very blunt, has mad wisdom. I get so many nuggets from her that I have to ease my way into later on. But when I need it most, her wisdom always bubbles up like vinegar and baking soda.
Long before I settled into life as a wife and “consulting parent” of my husband’s two older children, my mother talked to me about parenting. She is a stepparent herself (I have a sister who is my age); I AM a stepchild. So she shared with me some serious wisdom that I have practiced when dealing with my kids and husband that has also served me well as a teacher.
Never discipline someone else’s child.
As much as they might deserve it, you should really practice deference to the real parents in this situation. My stepdad rarely meted out consequences–my mother did that 99% of the time. Everyone’s type of discipline is different, and your idea of crime and punishment does not always match that of the biological parent(s). Ideally, you guys have had this conversation before blending families. But if you have not, you definitely need to hash this out during a time of peace to avoid conflict. Let your spouse take the lead when dealing with that–and if you do not have a spouse yet: shut all the way up.
Be prepared to come in 2nd place.
I do not think this counts once you are dealing with adult children; however, when they are school-aged the kids should come first. And you should never make your mate choose between you and the kids. Quite frankly, the children were there first and are still your spouse’s joint responsibility with the other parent. When decisions have to be made involving the children, do your best to tuck in your needs. Being a stepchild myself, I tried really hard to respect the children added to my life. Their wellbeing came first to me even when I did not feel it fair or convenient. Now that they are adults, I can set different boundaries.
Keep your opinions to yourself.
Talking bad about the kids–even when your spouse is fussing and angry–will always backfire. Tongue-biting is a must. Don’t even agree with what your spouse says because it will come back up once s/he has cooled down. Listen and ask appropriate questions, but reserve your person feelings for your journal or whatever God you may serve. The only thing created by adding to the negativity is ill will and hurt feelings. Nod, umm-hmm, whatever you need to do to help your mate vent, offer a solution every once in a while– but that’s it! Never add fuel to the fire.
Treat all the kids the same.
My mom was really good at this. She did not buy for one and not the other. She never left anybody out. We all looked good, smelled good, ate good, and the like. Nothing breeds resentment quicker than kids being treated differently. I got that kind of treatment from my stepdad’s family: no Christmas or birthday gifts; being left out of trips; zero acknowledgment. It took me a long time to get over that hurt. I have tried really hard not to leave anyone out. Quite naturally, you may feel a stronger desire to do more for the children you share together, but please for the love of all that is holy squash that. These are your kids now: treat them accordingly. Doing for one and not the other is not fair and is a guaranteed shit starter that you do not need.
There are lots of other things you can do specific to your situation; but I know these 4 pearls of wisdom will definitely get you going in the right direction. If you just do this much, you can have a peacefully blended family.