Let’s face it, our lives are busy! With the hustle and bustle associated with school, work and extra curricular activities, it may seem like families are spending less quality time together. As a result, the family bond that is needed for enhancing the family dynamic may be jeopardized. Holding regular family meetings is an important way to strengthen communication, cooperation and closeness with those you love.
Benefits of family meetings
The goal of family meetings is not to focus on all the negative aspects that maybe going on (no finger pointing is allowed!). But, rather they are an effective, proactive method to create a stronger connection and overall peace and harmony within the family. The benefits of having family meetings may include:
- Increased open-communication
- Development of problem-solving skills
- Stronger sense of family
- Better support and understanding of one another
- Restored sense of closeness
How to get started
Set a time that works for everyone. Weekly meetings are ideal, but bi-weekly is okay too. Mark the time on a calendar and treat it as important as a work meeting. This means no exceptions or changes. Everyone needs to be present.
Create an agenda. It doesn’t have to be a formal document, but one that outlines key topic areas. For example:
- Positives of the week
Areas of challenge
Personal and family goals
Possible family trips/excursions
Consider the length of the meeting
Keep the time short. Long meetings will bore younger children and likely frustrate your teens (watch out for eye rolling). As a result, both will end up complaining and not wanting to participate. For younger children aim for 30 minutes and for older children, 45 minutes to an hour is adequate.
Vary the meeting setting
A more formal place like the dining room table may set the stage for “a lecture”. Some of my best family meetings were held in our bedroom on the bed. Everyone wore their PJs, grabbed their favourite stuffy or pillow and were ready to just open-up and chat. When everyone feels relaxed, they are receptive to more serious conversations.
Assign a note taker
Keeping a record of the meeting and placing it in a binder is a good way to remind one another of growth and success, as well as what areas still need development. Choose a special binder and keep it in an area that is accessible. For motivation, you may also want to consider adding pictures that reflect goals or past experiences.
Make it fun
Including a ritual such as a short game or a positive statement said to one another helps to keep it more upbeat. You will want to make sure that any compliments given are authentic and don’t seem forced. Oh, and it never hurts to have your kids’ favourite snacks available too!
Set some ground rules
Problem solving can only occur when no one feels blamed and everyone agrees on a solution. Encourage the use of “I” statements (e.g., “I feel ____ when ____ because_____.”). Agree as a family how decisions will be made. Is it based on a majority vote? Or perhaps all votes are placed on a dice that gets rolled by the youngest family member.
Have paper and writing materials available. Some chidlren may feel more comfortable at first writing down their thoughts rather than verbalizing them.
Be patient with the process
The first time you hold a family meeting, not everyone will be on board or believe in the purpose. Be consistent and stick to it. Don’t forget to put away all temptations. This means no electronics! Hold a meeting away from the constant “ping” of an email or text is a must!
Remember, the importance of family meetings is to work towards helping one another resolve any issues. They are designed to keep that bond in tact and strengthen a sense of closeness. Since every family is different, consider what works best for your family and adapt the guidelines to fit your family’s dynamic