Families in Transition

Is Your Family Struggling To Adapt To A Change Within Your Family System?

Is your family struggling to adjust to a significant family transition, such as a new baby, new developmental stages for your children, adolescent angst or launching a teenager? Is this new shift in your family triggering conflict, uncertainty or imbalance within your home? Are you finding your new role difficult to navigate, instigating self-doubt and self-judgment? Is this new phase for your family causing stress between you and your partner? Is the change and newness leading to increased disconnection or upset between family members? Do you wish you felt more confident in your ability to lead your family through the change and ensure that everyone’s needs are being met?

Much like children go through developmental stages, families also experience stages called transition cycles. These cycles – or shifts in the family dynamic – typically occur following births, at pivotal times in childhood and adolescent development and when teenagers enter adulthood and leave the home. They can also occur when adult children take on the role of caring for their aging parents. Much like a child entering into a new development stage, family cycles can come with significant challenges, fears, conflicts and confusion. Struggles can be compounded, however, when the whole family system – and not just an individual member – is tasked with accepting newness and adapting to new family roles and other necessary changes within the home. During these cycles, it’s common to feel anxious and overwhelmed, and to question your ability to navigate change and adequately support all members of your family.

It is Common For Families To Struggle With Transition Cycles

Most families experience difficulties adjusting to the newness and uncertainties that arise when major shifts occur within their home environment. Not knowing how to be in a new family situation or uncertainty concerning what new roles will look and feel like can elicit conflicts, increase stress between family members, and make everyone feel unsettled and fearful. Change is hard. It disrupts the familiar and it’s common for everyone within the family – especially children – to be resistant, angry or inflexible. Children – who need structure – may become fearful and act out or withdraw. Teens may try to cope by self-medicating or developing other, unhealthy coping mechanisms. And, the stress of change may be impacting your relationship with your partner and/or causing you to experience self-doubt and anxiety. Thankfully, it’s also very common and beneficial for families to reach out and ask for help during these significant family transitions. A BPS therapist who is highly trained and experienced in families in transition matters can help you navigate change with greater ease and help your family adapt to change.

Therapy Can Help Your Family Accept, Adjust to and Embrace Change

Your family is always changing and changes – especially significant transitions – require everyone within your family system to be flexible and adaptable in order for family cohesion to occur.  And, you or you and your partner are charged with leading the way. Therapy can be extremely effective in helping you learn how to navigate this new terrain and help your family adapt to change.

Your BPS family therapist can help you understand the dynamics of family transitions, determine what’s occurring within your family system that is creating unease, and help guide you through this tricky time. As well as coaching you and offering concrete, practical strategies to try at home, your therapist can help your family connect during a time when people often pull away. In therapy, all members of your family will be given a safe space and time to talk about these changes and the feelings they may be experiencing, which may be difficult to discuss in daily life. Your family can learn better conflict resolution skills, including how to fight fairly. With help, you can lead your family through a transition with more ease and fluidity and get the support and guidance to make change easier on your children, partner and yourself.

The changes and challenges your family is experiencing now can become an opportunity to understand each other better, increase closeness, improve communication and strengthen your family connection. Although you may feel overwhelmed now, with help, it is possible to navigate this newness with more ease. All members of your family can adjust to and accept what is new and learn to embrace your new family cycle. And, addressing the issues that come up for your family when confronted with change now can help you better navigate the inevitable changes in your family’s future with more ease, confidence and clarity.

But, you still may have questions or concerns…

I think therapy could be helpful, but I’m concerned about costs.

This is your family’s lives and wellbeing. Addressing family transition issues now can lead to both immediate and long-term benefits. It can also prevent difficulties within your family from getting worse. Therapy is an investment in building confidence, creating balance and developing a workable structure for your family. It can help your family adapt to change in healthy ways and lead to increased connection within you family now and in the future. Therapy is also an investment that can lead to more security, consistency and wellbeing for your children.

Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with family transition issues or who they or their family couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct an initial assessment and match your family with a therapist who is trained and experienced to help with transition issues and whose personality is a good match for your family. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to yourself and your family may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine everyone in your family feeling and functioning better now and in the long-term on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.

If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.

Our schedules and lives are so hectic right now. I’m not sure that it’s possible to get everyone in one room at the same time.

We live in a busy culture and many families struggle with the juggling of schedules, shifting routines and conflicting needs. While it can be hard align everyone’s schedules for an hour a week, doing so during a transitional period is important. It can help your family connect and honor your family system. Alternatively, not doing so can create further disconnections and increase conflicts.

Your BPS family therapist can create a therapy structure and schedule that meets the specific needs of your family. And, once therapy has begun, your therapist may suggest working with different members of the family at different times, on various issues – alleviating the need for all members to be present at every session. You can talk to your therapist about your time concerns and develop at strategy and structure that fits your family. Therapy can be a fluid and dynamic process.

I’m afraid that therapy will shine a light on all that’s not working within our family and make everyone feel and/or behave worse.

You may be right. Oftentimes, things have to get worse before they can get better. But, it can get better. And, your BPS family therapist can help support and guide you through the upset that often occurs before healing can begin.

It’s also important to note that not addressing the issues that are occurring within your home can lead to further disconnection between family members and increased conflict as negative feelings deepen and problematic behaviors become entrenched. And, if your family is unable to adjust to current transitions, issues and conflicts can be compounded when the next transition  – which is inevitable – occurs. Alternatively, therapy during a change cycle can lead to closer family bonds and help your children – and yourself – develop a healthy ways to handle change. With help, all members of your family and your family system as a whole can become more flexible and adaptable now and in the future.

\We encourage you to schedule an initial assessment with Dr. Jan Hittelman. Jan will work with you to determine what your family’s specific issues are and ensure a good match between you, your family and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your family with a therapist who has expertise working with family transition cycles and related issues.

kat-austinBPS therapist Kat Austin, LPC, LAC, LMFT helped create the content for this page. Kat is specifically trained in family therapy and has been helping families through family transition cycle issues since 2005.

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