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Statistics show that over fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. So take it to chance that if you are still single and fall in love, odds are you could be in love with someone who has been married once already. Not a tragedy, but what if he has children? This adds a whole new dimension to your relationship. There are many more things to consider when you decide to marry a man who has a ready-made family. One of them is: Can you handle having a hand in raising someone else’s children?

Marriages into a ready-made family do not come easy. You find yourself faced with many situations you never dreamed possible. There is often resentment of the children, their mother, and the drawn-out court battles. One needs to prepare for these eventualities as if preparing for battle. The better informed you are, the better you will be able to cope. Do research. Buy parenting books; join online chat groups (there are a great number of internet support groups for stepparents). Check the local bookstores for specific books on step parenting; there are a number of good ones out there. Talk to friends and family about parenting and observe them with their children. Take time to learn about your stepchildren and their wants and needs. If it's not too painful, try to learn about what happened in the relationship between their father and mother so that you can get a grasp on the pain they might be going through and in turn be respectful to them about it. Knowledge is power and the more powerful you feel, the more you'll be able to act like a parent.

Try to remember that even though you are a legal parent now, you cannot take the place of a natural parent so don't even try. Be there and play with and listen to your children but don't try to overpower their own "real" parent. They will only resent you for this and create a horrid family environment for everyone.

Do, however, demand respect! You are an adult and a viable part of this family and therefore have the right to be treated fairly, kindly, and be listened to as well. Remind your stepchildren that to get respect they need to give it as well.

Remember to take time for yourself. Don't let yourself become swallowed up by your new responsibility. Still see friends and do things that you enjoy. Your family will see this and learn to recognize and respect you as an individual (not just as the wicked stepmother). Try to remember that if you are feeling stressed to get away from the situation for awhile. You can't help anyone if you are at the end of your rope. This is advice all parents should follow.

Try to never say anything about the natural parent in front of the children, for this will definitely cause resentment in them and they will never respect you! If you feel the need to vent about some injustice on the other parents behalf then wait until you can quietly chat with your husband or a trusted friend.

Make sure you and your spouse make time for your new marriage. It would be devastating for you and the children to have this marriage end up in divorce as well. Take an evening to yourselves once in a while and make sure to COMMUNICATE. If you don't sit down and talk to one another you will never know when something is going wrong! Be romantic with each other and don't be afraid to be affectionate with each other in front of the children. They need to see that you are indeed a couple and are in love. Do try and keep your arguments in private.

Try your best to get along with the natural parent and encourage your stepchildren to talk about them. This might make you uneasy at first but will help you foster a great relationship with the children.

Take your time in becoming a disciplinarian in the household. Observe how things work and stand back in this area for a while. You don't have to jump in feet first with everything and the children won't think you are there to instantly change everything.

Most importantly, assert your place in the household right away. This means just keeping yourself visible. Don't hide in your room. Get involved in family activities and even plan some of your own. Smile and laugh and share. Even if you are scared to death, don’t let it show. Be an adult and stand your ground. If they push you away come back again. They will learn you are a human being with needs and emotions just like them. Do share your emotions when you are feeling angry or upset or left out and encourage them to do so also. You can't keep everything in or you will end up blowing up at the small things or ruining your marriage. Make sure also that you encourage and allow the children to do separate things with just the natural parent. They will appreciate this and it will give you time for yourself.

Step parenting is very difficult but it can also be very rewarding. You just need to remember one important word: RELAX, and you will get through it step by step. It is possible to have mature and happy relationships with someone else’s children and keep your sanity.