Getting into a relationship with someone who has children means you've taken on a job lot. But there are no set rules about how involved you become with your partner's children. It will depend on whether they live with you, whether you have children of your own, if the other parent is still around and, most importantly, what you and your partner decide.
Step-parents often put immense pressure on themselves to love and get on well with their new partner's children. But in reality, it may be impossible to ever love a stepchild as if it were your own.
This can leave many new step-parents feeling guilty and inadequate. Accepting the reality of the relationship can help both you and the children to allow time for feelings to develop.
If you also have children of your own, you may find yourself feeling torn between their needs and those of your partner's children. Both sets of children may fear that your new relationship will take you away from them.
You need to give all the children plenty of reassurance and help them to understand that couple relationships are different, not better.
Research suggests that stepmothers tend to have a more difficult time in their role than stepfathers. And for stepmums who don't already have kids of their own, the new responsibilities can feel overwhelming. Make sure you get as much help as possible from your partner and other friends and family.
Many stepfathers take on a lot of responsibility - emotionally, practically and financially - but may feel they have no power and aren't appreciated. And if you have children of your own, you may spend less time with them than with your stepchildren, which can lead to feelings of guilt and resentment.
You'll need to maintain realistic expectations of your new family life and a sense of humour. In addition, you may find the following helpful:
Make sure you set clear roles and responsibilities with your partner (see Happy households).
Spend time with your stepchildren alone. Remember that building relationships takes time.
Develop a relationship with your stepchildren before attempting to discipline them.
Try not to take their negative feelings too personally. They are probably upset with the situation, not by you as a person.
Encourage children to spend time alone with your partner, and also with their other parent. This will help them to see that you respect these relationships.