Home About Dr Gayle Counseling Services Speaking Services Online Seminars Articles Press Room Books Contact
Ask Dr. Gayle

What to consider in a family home: family life cycle stages and needs

The Family Life Cycle Stage: Becoming Parents:

Babies require little space until they begin to crawl, around 6 months and walk, around one year. Moving can take place in anticipation of a growing family, however it can also wait until the baby is one year old to provide a separate room. This depends on parents philosophy about child rearing, specifically how parents decide to handle getting a child to sleep through the night. The "family bed" which promotes sleeping with your child in the first year allows a parent to adapt more easily to less space. But if you are a parent who wants to sleep with your spouse alone (sans baby!) most of the night, you will need a separate bedroom from the start dedicated to your new family addition.

The first 5 years there is little concern about locating your home in a choice school district, as your child will not be attending the public school until kindergarten. Finding a home in a safe neighborhood is enough. A future move may be preferable as your child reaches school age, if you plan on using the public school system and you are not satisfied with the one in your current location. Check into this ahead of time so you can anticipate whether you will plan on moving to another location when your child reaches school age.

Adding your second, third or fourth child:

Having a separate bedroom for an additional baby is preferable, as sleep can be an issue if the younger child is awakened during the night by the baby's nearby cry. Once a baby is sleeping through the night, it may be desirable to share a room if the children are of the same gender and the bedroom is large enough to accommodate two children. Keep in mind, however, that children that are more than 3 years apart may present difficulties when pre-pubescence brings up issues of privacy for the older child. Consider a three-bedroom house, or a house with room for each child to have his or her own room when your children begin to hit puberty.

The Family Life Cycle Stages of Raising Young Children and Raising Adolescence:

While young children are more likely to accommodate to sharing with siblings, older children require greater privacy in order to pass through the changes of adolescence with greater ease. Individuality is the name of the game, and teens do well to have their own space, even a separate bathroom from parents, if possible. Ideally, a minimum two-bath house that provides privacy for parents to have their own bathroom and children to share a bathroom is adequate. The last thing a teenager wants is a parent invading his or her "space".

Homework becomes an issue as children grow and need to concentrate. Therefore, as children reach junior high and definitely high school, their studies increase and they require a place of their own where they will not be interrupted by younger children.

While younger children accommodate moves, as a child gets older his or her social life becomes increasingly significant. By the time children reach junior high, friends and community activities become significant. A move away from these friendships, changing schools or communities can set a child back emotionally and academically. If at all possible, make your moves before your child reaches this age.

If a Move Is Necessary:

Although in some cases a move could benefit your child, usually children suffer from these changes as they become older and a move involves losses of friendships and familiar people they have bonded with over time. Sometimes a move can prove traumatic to a child's development. At anytime a move takes place, be sure to consider your child's feelings and allow them to say "good bye" and to grieve lost friends. Acknowledge their feelings rather than push them to "look on the bright side". Think ahead and position your family for success by anticipating children's growing needs and addressing them.

Keep in mind optimal times for moving are when your child has a naturally occurring change, for example between preschool and grade school, or between grade school and junior high, although the latter will be more difficult as the child is older and more attached to his or her community. Remember that young children adapt more easily to change because their primary attachment figures are their parents. Parents are the predominant people in a young child's world. As your child matures, he or she naturally attaches to other adult figures and peers and it is healthy for other adults and children to become increasingly significant as they grow. Tearing them away from a community that supports them will be harder the older they are and the more successful they are in their present communities.

The Family Life Cycle Stage of Launching Children:

This stage comes gradually as children attend college or technical training which prepares them for making a living and raising their own families. When buying or remodeling your home, consider how space might be used when a child leaves home. Certainly the timing is much better for moving into a new space entirely when your last child leaves home. However, some parents find that remodeling also accommodates their needs at this stage of the life cycle.

The Family Life Cycle and Retirement:

By the time you are "on your own" again as parents, there may be considerations about moving into a home and/or community that better serves a new lifestyle. Certainly a one floor plan is the best option as we age, protecting our knees from unnecessary stairs. Or at least finding a home or remodeling a home to include a master bedroom and bath on the main floor with the kitchen and living area. Timing of this kind of change is determined by your personal needs. Children at college certainly may enjoy coming home to their old haunts, but they will adjust to your changing needs much better at this time, than the previous 6 years (junior high and high school).

So, there you have it! Use these as guidelines on your family journey and bon voyage!

Return to Previous Page

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

Return to Dr. Gayle Peterson's Home Page

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

Send Comments and Inquiries to Dr. Gayle Peterson at gp@askdrgayle.com