It is axiomatic with teenagers, who are not yet independent of their parents, emotionally or economically, that family relations must be made sound, or else, when a prodigal son or daughter comes home, the prognosis will be poor. For this reason MA emphasizes a collaboration with parents and puts emphasis upon helping families get it together.
Although parents play key roles before, during and after a son or daughter passes through MA, the purpose of family conversations changes over time. In the first weeks parents speak with their children each week, but avoid rehashing old squabbles. At first the parental task is to firm up boundaries, to define the family task and to make expectations plain (e.g., “You’re there for good reasons; we expect you to pitch in; and you will not be alone—we’re coming to participate, too!”).
In Sun clan, the family takes center stage. There is no one trajectory for family work, for, as Tolstoy put it, “Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Each MA family has its own history, its own matters to take up in Sun Clan. In general, however, weekly discussions and family therapy sessions (in person when parents come to campus) are aimed at making communications direct and clear; reviewing painful history, where this is useful; renegotiating parent-child relationships, when that needs doing; and sorting out, clarifying and changing dysfunctional dynamics.
The goals, of course, include: a new modus vivendi for the whole family; a changed alignment, which makes room for an extruded son or daughter to fit back in; and a new consensus about how things in future will be different than in a painful past.