How to Manage Major Life Changes as a Family

How you and your family choose to manage change can determine how much stress you experience.

Establishing clear family roles can help you successfully manage change. Thinkstock

Change is a part of life. It happens in all areas of our life and is not always bad. People handle change in different ways. Some do not handle change well at all, while others seem to adjust quite easily. With change, we all have opportunities for growth by learning new ways of doing things. How you and your family choose to manage change may determine how much stress you experience.

One way a family can successfully manage change is by establishing clear family roles. Family roles are defined as a set of goals and responsibilities expected of each member of the family. 

Typically, there are five roles required for a healthy family: providing resources, nurturing and support, life skill development, maintenance and management of the family system and gratification of marital partners. Within the great diversity of the family structures, each family member may fulfill many possible roles. Everyone’s role is important. Each role provides a way to share responsibilities that ensure a successful functioning family. During major life changes or crisis, family roles may need to be re-defined and re-assigned to cope with the changes.

Here are some tips to remember:

Establish clear roles – Make sure that your family roles are clearly defined. It is important that each person understands and recognizes the rights and responsibilities associated with their roles and that everyone understands what is expected of them in their role.

Be flexible – Understand that roles may develop and change over time. Family members must be willing and able to change and adapt as needed, as well as taking on new or additional roles.

Assign family roles fairly – Make sure no one is overburdened with too many responsibilities. Discuss and review each family member’s role and check to see that everyone is comfortable with his or her roles. Lastly, make sure that the children’s roles are appropriate for their ages.

Be responsible for fulfilling the role – Each family member needs to take their role seriously and follow through on responsibilities. If for any reason, a family member is having difficulty carrying out their role, it may be necessary to re-assign that responsibility.

For more information and programs on stress and anger management, please visit Michigan State University Extension. MSU Extension offers a variety of educational programs throughout the state. To find a program near you, contact your local Extension county office.

This article is from Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). This article was written by Terry Clark-Jones, Michigan State University Extension.






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