Blended families are so common that 1 in 3 Americans are either step-parents or have a step-parent. Unfortunately, most people don’t begin the process of blending their families with eyes wide open. They tend to go in excited and assume that they will figure it out because they love each other. Most of the time, healthy systems don’t fall into place; they are created.

If you are creating a blended family or already have a blended family, one of the first things to consider is expectations. The clearer you can be about expectations, the better. Consider each partner’s roles and what you want that to look like. Who is the disciplinarian? Who makes sure the kids are doing okay in school? Discuss the differences between the step-parent role and the biological parent role. Discuss the similarities. Find ways to become united as a parenting team.

You also want to define your boundaries. Boundaries with each other and boundaries with the ex-partner. You can only control what goes on in your house and not the ex-partner’s house, but you can do your best to communicate clearly with everyone involved. In simplest terms, boundaries are what is okay and what is not okay. It is okay for the ex-partner to ask you to take the kid on a day that’s not yours, but springing this at the last minute is not okay. You can define how many days’ notice you need in this scenario.

Most importantly, you want to ensure you and your partner communicate openly and honestly. Sharing a blended family is not for the faint of heart. It takes work and consistent redefining of boundaries and expectations. At the end of the day, if you two are not communicating, you will not have a healthy family system. Share the things that are hard about having a blended family. Be sure not to point fingers at your partner, but share your truth and experience. Many step-parents feel powerless at times. It’s essential to be able to share this experience with your partner. Biological parents who have their kids half-time also often feel powerless. Make sure both of you are heard, understood, and supported. The last thing you want is to feel lonely in your own family. When the two of you work as a team, you can create a beautiful, happy, loving blended family.