Family Dynamics – what to expect in lockdown

I have been at home with my family (three school aged children and husbandfor well over three weeks now. Juggling work, home-learning and emotions is no small task and one that we are all now coming to grips with in this new world.  

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the memorable phrase “forming, storming, norming, and performing” in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Used to describe the journey that teams follow on their way to high performance, it seems so applicable to the situation many of us find ourselves in now and perhaps gives some hope as we work through the inevitable strains and stresses that this new togetherness is inevitably bringing.  

One silver lining might be that we emerge closer, more connected and harmonious as family units 

The Road to Harmony! 


In this stage, most family members are positive and polite. Some are anxious, as they can’t see how things will turn out. Others are simply excited as they see it as a chance for an extra-long holiday. 

If you are a parent, you play a dominant role at this stage, because family members’ roles and responsibilities aren’t clear. 

This stage can last for some time, as the family start to work together, and as they make an effort to get to know each other again. In this new close-knit scenario individuals will seek to find and implement a structure to work to.   


Next, the family moves into the storming phase, where they start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This is the stage where things start to get really tricky.  

Storming often starts where there is a conflict between individuals in the family due to differences in opinion or approachIndividuals may do things in different ways for all sorts of reasons but, if differing approaches cause unforeseen problems, they may become frustrated. For example one of your children may want to join in Joe Wicks PE session at 9am and another one refuses to join in at the same time and wants to practice the recorder – this is the exact time when you have scheduled the team meeting for work!  

Storming can also happen in other situations. For example, family members may challenge authority or jockey for position as their roles are clarified. Or, if you haven’t defined clear parameters for responsibilities, some members may feel overwhelmed, feeling that they are the only ones completing tasks/work and they could be uncomfortable with the way you are approaching things. For example, one of your children does not react well when you ask him to clear the table. He lies on the floor and sobs – lamenting his perceived persecution! 

Some may question the worth of the family unit, and they may resist taking on responsibilities. (“I don’t want to be in this family – Im not doing it!!!”).  

Family members who stick with a stringent schedule may experience stress, particularly as they don’t have the support of established processes to fall back on.  


Gradually, the family moves into the norming stage. This is when differences start to resolve and members appreciate each other. 

Now that your family has got to know one another again, they may start to get along better. They are able to ask one another for help more freely and provide constructive feedback. stronger commitment to the family unit emerges and progress begins. 

There is often a prolonged overlap between storming and norming, because, as new challenges come upthe family may lapse back into behaviour from the storming stage. 


The family reaches the performing stage, when cooperation leads, without friction, to the achievement of the family unity. The structures and processes that you have begun to set up support this well. 

As parent, you can delegate some of your household tasks more evenly with the increased cooperation. This gives more time to effectively nurturing the family’s health, wellbeing and development while balancing other responsibilities.  


When lockdown starts to ease off, and life attempts to resumethe family will be free to mix with the rest of society again.  

Those who like routine, or who have developed close bonds with each other, may find this stage difficult, particularly if their future now looks uncertain and the cycle will need to begin again to adapt to the new ‘normal’ ahead.  

Adapted from 


This article was written by Sarah Thorne, COO at The Return Hub

* The Return Hub is an executive search firm that places professionals who want to relaunch or transfer their careers with employers in the financial services sector. They also advise on and implement practical strategies that companies can use to target, assess, hire and support returning talent.

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