Ideally, families provide a container in which an individual is safe to grow. From infanthood to adulthood the developmental process moves a person into competency. The support and encouragement of the family surrounding that person is invaluable.
The “adolescent” years are complex but incredibly important. All is designed to lead toward independence, and if something blocks an individual’s efforts to acquire their tools for independence, sparks can fly. Parents may be baffled, confused, or hurt. Their child may need to get a message to them, but the message is not always delivered gracefully or effectively.
However, each step toward freedom demands additional responsibility. A young man or woman needs to leave home with a full toolbox of skills for effective living.
Before they leave, a young family member may “act out” in order to call attention to a family dysfunction. They may need to fill in the holes in their own development that are the result of a family that is not fully functioning. They may need to create a better atmosphere for a younger sibling. The young adult cannot fully exit until reassured that the family will be able to carry on without their contributions.
We frequently find that the “identified patient” is stuck in what clinicians refer to as “triangulation.” The family patterns may need to be identified in order for the existing member to be reassured. But families are adaptive, and often, with professional intervention, a young person may go forward with a sense of blessing … and peace.