Family Life Cycle Transitions can be a time of great excitement and great stress. You may be asking yourself, “Is my experience “Normal”?”

Throughout our lifetime we experience many changes but don’t always know how or what to think of them. Going through a major transition can leave you feeling isolated, as if no one understands. As a family therapist I often hear people express confusion or frustration about how their family has changed over the years. Some ask, “why do I feel sad when I should be happy, do others feel this way?” Research shows that many people report similar experiences throughout life stages.

Here is a list of Family Life Cycle Stages that can leave you frustrated or confused.  

Leaving home, emerging young adults – this transition brings forth excitement and fear because this is typically when we gain emotional and financial responsibility for the self. The excitement pertains to a sense of freedom. Fear may stem from not knowing how to be emotionally or financially responsible. Seek the support of others who have been where you are now.

Joining families through marriage or union – this time is defined when making a commitment to a new system. Joining lives can be rewarding but cause conflict. During this transition, conflict may arise because two (or more) people from varying backgrounds have decided to share emotional space. Differences often show up as “bad” rather than simply different. Find ways to gain acceptance for each other’s differences.

Families with young children – during this phase, family members accept new members into the system. Emotions are heightened during this phase for all family members because your usual way of being has drastically changed. Get educated about how to tend to your emotions and support those around you to make this joyous experience that much better.

Families with adolescents – this stage increases the flexibility of family boundaries to permit children’s independence. This is when the parent/child relationship begins to shift to allow the adolescent to move between home and social lives. Parents may feel some loss of identity because they have less “parenting” to do so they focus more on work or hobbies. Use this time to shift your expectations for what “family time” looks like. Practice being flexible and open to change using some mindfulness skills.

Launching children and moving on in mid-life – this transition is all about realigning relationships. Renegotiating the couple’s dynamics when kids leave the nest, developing adult to adult relationships with grown children, and defining how to care of elderly parents. Utilizing open, honest communication skills will help you navigate this time of change.

Families in late middle age – this includes acceptance of shifting generational roles. Some may need to start caring for aging parents which can be confusing when you have played the role of “child” for so many years. It’s important to make room for the wisdom and experience of older generations. We have much to learn from others who have more experience so practice listening with curiosity.

Families nearing the end of life – each stage has emotional challenges though this stage seems to be one of the hardest. We must deal with the realities of physical limitations and end of life. When people survive their partner, siblings, and/or friends they are left feeling alone. If you or someone you know are in this stage of life help create connections with others. This can be through community interactions or group therapy.    

Life Cycle Stages describe an individual’s emotional and intellectual progression through family life. Keep in mind “family” includes whomever you want it to be. Take time to reflect on your journey or look ahead with excitement about what’s to come. Remember, each person’s experience is unique, but you may share similar emotional experiences. Find solace in knowing you are not alone in your feelings.

Our therapist’s at Acuity Counseling help many individuals and families through Family Transitions. If you need professional guidance, please don’t hesitate to call.

Maggie Rodriguez, MA, LMFT

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