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Gone are the days when marriage always preceded having children. According to some statistics, approximately one-third of all weddings in America form stepfamilies. Blending families create many new, joyful bonds, but the process isn't always easy. If you're about to become a stepmom once you tie the knot or if your fiancé will be a stepdad to your children, we consulted Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets of Happy Families: Eight Keys to Building a Lifetime of Connection and Contentment, and Karinna Karsten, love educator and founder of SacredLove.com for their expert tips on the sensitive topic.
If you have kids:
Ease them into the idea
You may be over the moon about your new spouse to be, but don't expect your child will be, too, says Haltzman. "Your child may experience this new person as an intruder in your special relationship." Ease your kid into the idea and take introductions slowly, he recommends. Let your child realize your new partner's great qualities on his or her own. Karsten agrees: "Don't talk your significant other up." Staying neutral helps the child feel on even ground.
But prepare them
"Children can smell deception a mile away and resent it," says Karsten. So give them a heads up about who this person is and what he means to you. Have a frank conversation — in child terms — about why your relationship with this person is important to you.
Let your little one express their feelings. "Give your child an opportunity to vent about his or her feelings without intervening," Karsten says. They need to know they're being heard.
See More: 4 Ways to Involve Kids in the Wedding
If he has kids:
Give them time
"Don't expect trust to build up overnight," says Haltzman. For some children, the process of integration will take more time. Don't try to force a relationship or talk yourself up. Be open and, most of all, patient, and let the child come to you on his or her own time.
Don't take it personally
As much as you can, realize that even if your guy's child may seem angry at or insults you, it's not really personal. Concentrate on what's driving the child's behavior rather than the behavior itself. If it becomes a problem, talk to your guy and figure out how to work on it together.
Once his child does begin to open up, let the child know that you're not trying to replace his or her mother.
Jolène M. Bouchon is a regular contributor to Brides.com and a freelance writer.