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Seven out of ten divorcees remarry within five years of their divorce, so it is no surprise an average 1,300 blended families are created daily in this country. Still, the very word stepparent needlessly brings to mind negative connotations. Although families will not expand without growing pains, the guiding principles offered here will allow you to cohabit with your new spouse and their children while maintaining your sanity and dignity. Adherence to these principles will also earn stepparents the appreciation they commonly believe is absent.

1. Acknowledge your first responsibility is to yourself, then to your marriage, then to your stepchildren. Refuse to allow yourself to be pressured into reversing these principles.

2. Realize some friction in newly formed families is normal, and exercise caution in setting expectations for stepchildren to avoid setting them too high.

3. Consistency should be the norm; fairness for all children at all times.

4. Be aware that children will not respond to discipline the same way. Discipline should be administered according to the child's age, capabilities and development.

5. Since children require a sense of continuity, some aspects of the family's routine should remain the same. Keeping the family's daily schedule the same adds continuity to a changing family structure.

6. Define limits; describe to your spouse how much of an active parenting role you are willing to play.

7. Choose to deal with problems as they occur; children must clearly see that the natural parent supports and respects you.

8. Children must also see you and your spouse act as a team on parenting decisions.

9. Finally, remember that time and affection are resources as valuable as cash. How you distribute them among your new family will either create arguments and tension or security and contentment.