For parents, life can sometimes feel like an unrelenting rollercoaster. Here's how to take the pressure down.
When families come to therapy, many wonder if there's a diagnosis to be found to explain their difficulties, says Dr Kirsty Ross, a senior clinical psychologist and lecturer at Massey University.
One of the most common things she does, however, is normalise their stressors as "problems of life".
Just as people go through developmental changes, families go through changes that require learning new skills, she says.
Each stage of a relationship has its strengths and moments of joy, but also its problems and challenges that need navigating.
Here she explains how to weather the four phases of family life across the life cycle, lower the family stakes and put things into perspective.
Phase one: Partnership
The first stage of forming a family is finding a partner.
However, we're often presented with an "unrealistic and idealistic" view of forming a partnership, Ross says.
The first stages of a romantic relationship are typically, and hopefully, "lovely" and full of possibilities.
"Putting in a lot of time and effort into cementing a bond that will hopefully continue to grow and develop over the years."
However, relationships take a lot of work, sustained effort and communication, Ross says.
"Once the initial excitement fades, and daily living starts, things emerge that may require discussion and negotiation."
Ideas about what it is to be in a relationship need talking through.
Ross says we often draw on the model presented to us by our parents.
This can mean we want to recreate what we saw, or sometimes it means we work hard to do the opposite.
"Merging two lives is not easy. When people find themselves irritated by their partner, needing space or finding they need to discuss different perspectives on situations - chores, friendships, work-life balance - remember this is pretty normal," she says.
What couples often talk about in therapy are not moments of being dissatisfied in a relationship, but patterns of behaviour and ongoing difficulties that signal a serious issue.
Work then needs to be done on the health and future of the relationship.
To do this, couples need to learn how to resolve the problems through good communication and hard work.
Phase two: Couples with young children
This stage of life brings a great deal of joy, but also tiredness and craving time to yourself.
It can also generate worry that if you feel like this, something is wrong with you or that you're a bad parent.
"I have often found myself saying to parents of young children 'it feels hard because it is hard'," Ross says.
"Being parents is often presented (in society) as requiring selflessness and being a martyr."
However, becoming a parent doesn't mean you stop being an individual with your own needs and wishes, she says.
Nor should it stop you from being a couple, and spending time on your relationship.
Ross says it's important for children to see their mum and dad as people with their own needs and to see their parents enjoying each other as a couple.
"Part of children's development is realising that they are not the centre of the universe and that everything should revolve around them."
While very young children are totally dependent on us, older children can be given more direction.
"A gentle hand on their shoulder telling them that they need to wait for their parents to finish what they are doing before they're attended to is actually helpful for them to learn patience, and that other people also need attention and care."
Secure attachment is the aim of those early years as a parent but also teaching them about what they can expect from the world and other people.
Phase three: couples with teenagers
As children head into their teenage years, gradually releasing your parental responsibilities is crucial in teaching them how to be fully functioning, capable adults, Ross advises.
And learning how to make decisions sometimes requires adolescents to make mistakes.
"Part of parenting teenagers is giving them the ability to make choices from options that you know are safe, and sometimes our teenagers don't choose wisely."
They may choose the haircut you know will look terrible, or not study for the maths test that you know they need to study for.
"And when they experience the consequences of their choices, this is a powerful lesson in them understanding that a) parents and other responsible adults sometimes do know what they're talking about and b) making a choice means being accountable, and that you can make a different choice next time."
It's important for teens to experience disappointments and to experience that you can get through them with support, Ross says.
This builds resilience and a sense of being able to cope.
"Obviously, we have to stop our young people making mistakes with serious, negative consequences, but letting them experience all the different emotions and helping them manage those feelings, rather than protect them from them, means they can sit with their feelings and manage them when we are not around."
Phase four: empty nesters
When children leave home some parents find it challenging, but it's also hopefully a time to look at the young person you have guided into adulthood and be proud, Ross says.
Plus, you can finally start to build a friendship with them.
"Being a parent of a child and teenager means you can't be their friend, as you need to guide them in a way that we don't do with friends," she says.
"Once our young people become adults we can get to know them as adults, their values, their goals, their independent thoughts and opinions - and that means accepting those too."
Your children can now also get to know you as an adult, not just as their parent, which is "really exciting", Ross says. It also means the parental role shifts from active parenting to support, guidance and advice "when asked".
Parents are also freed up to start exploring and reclaiming their individual identities and re-focus on their relationship.
If you've paid attention to self-care and your partner during your children's childhood, this won't need to be a radical change, though, she says, but a gentle shift now that time and attention allow.
Keep calm and carry on
Each stage of family life – from forming an intimate relationship to having children and launching them into adulthood - has its challenges, but also its rewards.
"One of the most lovely parts of my job is to reassure people that they are doing just fine and that maybe they just need to lean on others to ensure their own needs and that of their relationship is met, while they are caring for their loved ones," Ross says.
"It is true that it takes a village to raise a child, and it is helpful to see family life as being a collection of people caring for each other, rather than feeling as though you need to manage it all on your own, or do it perfectly.
"You are allowed to moan, complain and want time to yourself – it doesn't make you anything other than human."
This article is the first in a three-part series about relationships and stress. Next week Ross talks about friendships and intimate relationships.