‘I’ To ‘Us’, Then Becoming A ‘Family’


According to the Family Therapy model, we enter into different stages throughout our lives and in order to have a healthy transition one need to understand these stages and what exactly is expected at each stage. The same principle can be applied to the family developmental stages, which are simply a series of predictable steps and developmental responsibilities families experience over time. Couples can get individualized evaluation by meeting with a family counselor to prepare emotionally and be a stronger team.


Understanding the family developmental stages enables you to be able to counter these challenges and conquer milestones unique to each stage. It is important to note that mastering the skills and milestones makes moving from one stage to the other easier, which also goes a long way in preventing diseases and emotional or stress-related disorders. Meanwhile, if you don’t master them, you’re likely to have difficulty with relationships and future transitions. In family therapy, you will be able to identify if you have realistic expectations or have any personal challenges stemming from your own childhood.

In couples or family counseling , these individual stages of development are also used as a foundation for understanding what typical issues stand out in each phase of someone’s life. These stages are developed based off a traditional family model, but it can go in a different order depending on ones’ different life circumstances, for example – divorce, remarriage, blended family and/or grandparents becoming primary caregivers.

There are a few things you must understand before we do so. First off, it is also assumed that age does not matter as people enter the stages at different points, for example getting married at 19 versus getting married at 25 or 42. And most importantly in a family, the development of a group of interacting individuals is a bit more important than of a particular person.

Stage 1: Time As A Couple

Here the couple is getting to know each other, trying to establish a satisfying home but no children yet. As they prepare for childbirth, they learn to think and act as a team, rely on each other and make decisions together (Careers, housing, money, and children).


Stage 2: Childbearing Family

Yes! The first child comes along, and now the couple is adjusting to the increased family size and providing the right developmental environment. This affects their usual schedules, finances, and responsibilities. Dealing with their parents as they visit to savor and uphold their new role as grandparents.

Stage 3: Family With Preschoolers

The adjustments continue, and now it’s even more draining. The attention, the energy and now the number of activities the couples share together drops radically – the key here is not to let this happen, try your best to take the time out as a couple like to go out on a date and stuff.

Stage 4: Family With School-Age Child

In cases where more children come into the picture, this stage features the oldest child between the age of 8 and 13. Children want to establish more relationships outside the family – this is a good idea, allow them. It’s also a time to encourage academic performances and social interactions or activities.

Time get increasingly limited here, but responsibilities should be shared for more efficiency.

Stage 5: Family With Teenage Children

Here is truly a challenging stage and features children between ages of 13 and 20. Now they yearn for more independence and to avoid family problems as a parent; you must discover a way to be flexible with the boundaries and allowing this independence. You have to lower the bar in your parental role and provide opportunities for the growth and development of your teen.

Also, it is vital to be supportive (in a subtle way) even when they make bad choices.

Stage 6: Time For Launching

Simply the end of the parental stage, it starts from when the oldest child leaves home and lasts until the youngest follows cue. Here’s the catch; there’s every tendency that your children will want to visit every once in a while, so it is your responsibility to accept them leaving while also maintaining a supportive home base for them to return to. You can also learn and accept new ways of relating to them during this period.

Stage 7: Empty Nest

The couple now has the house to themselves again. The home is now empty, and their conversations are no more focused on the children. They start experiencing lots of positive and negative feelings, almost without purpose.

Family therapy is recommended if they start questioning their relationship with each other.

What do we do? Well, now is the time to learn to share other things with each other and start building your closeness again. Volunteer if possible, find new hobbies and enjoy them with each other. Prepare for retirement.

Stage 8: Retirement Years

This is the final stage of family development and starts from retirement till the death of the marriage partner. Accepting retirement and adjusting to it, keeping up your health and keep in touch with the rest of the family (your children).

If you’re financially stable, there are positive feelings, but dealing with the grief of losing your partner and living alone become an issue.

Make sure you travel, enjoy your hobbies and do a lot of relaxation.


While the family developmental stages helps you understand what to expect at these phases of one’s family life, it is important to always opt for family therapy whenever you feel confused or having difficulty overcoming challenges. This way you don’t make poor decisions under stress, depression, anxiety or other emotional issues that’ll lead to even more family problems.

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