Blending families while dating

Once you've put your parenting house in order, turning it into a loving, well-blended home is another task entirely.

Next, draft a list of household rules, such as how much TV the kids are allowed to watch.Once you're both clear on each other's opinions, you can discuss discipline problems and what strategies you can use that will be effective for your family and that honor everyone's beliefs. She and her husband brainstormed together to find the perfect way to get Bailey to sleep on her own. Every time she spent the whole night in her room, we gave her a fairy to hang on it," Morgan says."And because you have to work hard in a stepfamily to build relationships, it often ends up that everyone learns a lot about trust, safety, and love."It typically takes between two and five years for a stepfamily to establish itself, according to Osborne and other experts, so in the beginning everyone's in for a bumpy ride.For example, your child-rearing role as Dad's girlfriend will be entirely different when you become a stepmother; a child who viewed you as a playmate may have trouble swallowing your discipline.In fact, putting more energy and effort into coupledom may improve your relationships with all the children, who will begin to see you as a strong, united front instead of two bewildered (or even squabbling) individuals.

To accomplish this goal, you need to set aside time alone with your partner to discuss family issues.

Or, antics your partner found amusing on weekend visits with your toddler may lose their charm once you're all living together.

Just ask Misty Morgan of Rancho Santa Fe, California.

"But once we were married, the glamour quickly rubbed off."One of Morgan's biggest surprises was that Brad was hesitant to discipline his daughter.

"When it came to Bailey's wants, Brad couldn't say no, and that made me really mad, especially when he let her sleep with us all the time," Morgan remembers.

"Research shows that young children learn trust when they experience fair, effective discipline.