Family Meetings

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June 3, 2013 by middleearthnj

Smiling Family Posing in FieldMeetings might seem like something for employees in a corporation, but experts say that holding a weekly family meeting helps families stay connected, improve communication and self-esteem, and increase problem solving. Regular family meetings, which should only last 20 to 30 minutes, can promote family harmony. There are many benefits to holding regular family meetings, such as:

  • Improves communication (keeps lines open, develops active listening, encourages positive discussion, gives everyone the chance to be heard, updates everyone on activities and schedule).
  • Provides a safe forum for distributing chores fairly, settling differences or conflicts, diffusing sibling rivalry, and adopting new rules.
  • Fosters a greater sense of responsibility within children.
  • Allows for better decision-making. When everyone is calm and listening to each other’s viewpoints, you can better understand each other’s needs and brainstorm solutions. It allows family members to settle differences in a spirit of cooperation, instead of yelling over frustrating issues.
  • Recognizes good things happening in the family. Provides encouragement.
  • Encourages cooperation and builds family unity.

To start a family meeting, the parents must decide together to begin holding family meetings and communicate to the children that you will begin holding meetings to talk about what’s going on in everyone’s life. The parents should also explain the rules for the family meeting, such as:

  • Every member of the family will attend, be on time, and is expected to contribute to the conversation.
  • Everyone should listen without interrupting.
  • Everyone should be supportive. Criticism is not allowed.
  • The meeting is not a time or place to scold, punish, recall past mistakes, blow off steam, or single out a particular person. Those issues should be taken up separately and individually.

Choose a regular time and place to hold the meetings.  Maybe Monday during dessert or Sunday after breakfast will work for your family. Find a consistent time that will meet everyone’s schedule. By holding family meetings regularly, it is easier to keep them balanced to both celebrate happy times and solve family problems. Discussing one or two problems per meeting usually is a good limit.

Each meeting should have a moderator. Usually, the parents are co-moderators, but if you have older children, you might want to rotate the responsibility. The meeting moderator’s goal is to make sure that everyone stays on topic and gets a chance to be heard. Usually, going around the circle for each agenda item is a good method for giving each family member the opportunity to respond to the topic. Parents must set the tone of the meeting with an attitude of openness and acceptance, rather than one of dominance or control.

Keep your agenda for the family meetings the same each week. It should follow something like:

    1. Something that made you feel good this week or something you appreciate that another family member did this week.
    2. Something that has bothered you this week or problems you see within the family.
    3. Announcements or plans for upcoming events.
    4. Schedule for the week. All family members should indicate what meetings, appointments, tests, projects, activities, or other events they have this week. Identify scheduling conflicts and work to resolve them. This will help your children develop good time management skills.
    5. A fun activity together.

When a problem is identified at the meeting, parents should listen to and validate the feelings that are expressed. Everyone should have a turn to express their opinion. Again, criticism should be avoided. Parents should ask open-ended questions to clarify the problem. Once the problem is identified and everyone has expressed their thoughts about the problem, then brainstorm solutions with the entire family. During brainstorming, no one is allowed to cast judgment on any idea. Every idea – even wild and impractical – is accepted at first. Once you have lots of ideas, talk about the pros and cons of each solution and come to an agreement about the best one together as a group. Try the solution the next week, and discuss how it went at the next family meeting.

Family meetings model excellent skills to children, such as listening, respecting differences, verbalizing appreciation, and problem-solving. Even if your teen rolls their eyes at the idea of a family meeting, you will likely be surprised at how it changes your family dynamic for the better and creates a meaningful tradition.

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