Many divorced people have kids—and the vast majority of those people eventually remarry. Creating a cohesive family unit can be tough; generally, each adult has a different parenting style and kids have varying expectations.

Blending families has ups and downs, and it usually isn’t a smooth ride. Psychologically speaking, it’s healthier to prepare to blend your families before you actually do it. You, your new spouse and all the kids will be better able to handle challenges and enjoy successes if you’re mentally ready to blend your families.

Slow Down

Once you’ve been granted your divorce, you’re legally free to marry whomever you choose. However, your Toronto divorce lawyer will probably advise you not to rush into creating a new family unit, because it’s in your kids’ best interests (and yours) to heal from the emotional wounds your divorce created.

Let your kids get to know your new partner—and get to know your partner’s kids—in day-to-day situations before you jump into family life with both feet. Participate in homework time, hang out around the house and do other things that you’ll eventually do together once your families have merged. That way, the right expectations are set up from the start.

Talk about the Tough Stuff

With your new partner, determine the rules on discipline. Will both the biological and stepparent be responsible for disciplining the kids? Are you both on the same page when it comes to methods of discipline? These details need to be hammered out long before you combine your families under one roof.

How will you handle your new partner’s ex’s involvement? Will he or she remain active in the kids’ lives, and to what extent? What about your ex? In most circumstances, you should support the biological parents—but what if you can’t? Are you prepared to contact your Toronto divorce lawyer to ask for legal support if things go awry?

Set Clear Boundaries

Both kids and adults need to set boundaries to help create a happy and successful blended family. Ground rules that apply to each member of the family can be extremely helpful, as long as everyone abides by them. For example, respect is mandatory. Kids don’t have to like each other (or their new stepparent), but they do have to remain respectful of every member of the family at all times.

Focus on the Kids

When you’re in love with someone new, it’s tough to remember that not everyone shares your feelings. Your kids (and your new step kids) might not even like these new adults in their lives.

Try to connect with your step kids, but don’t force a relationship if they’re not ready. Make sure your step kids get plenty of one-on-one time with their biological parent (and that your own children get ample time with you) so they don’t feel like you’re pushing them aside.

Remember, the main goal is to have happy, emotionally healthy kids. If things get really difficult, or if your ex (or your new spouse’s ex) tries to sabotage the kids’ relationships, don’t hesitate to call your Toronto divorce lawyer. Your lawyer may be able to recommend a good family therapist or help you find legal relief.