“We have a plan!” I’ve heard that at many workplace meetings when the team assembled to prevent or solve a problem. To reduce your family stress and increase your family’s resilience begin to have regular Family Meetings.
Too many families wait until there is a serious issue before coming together to discuss making changes. Most businesses, faith, volunteer, and community groups regularly have meetings. They determine what is going well, what is a problem, what options for improvement can be initiated, and what are their next-steps.
These organizations usually build in acknowledgement, expressions of appreciation, and celebration of progress, cooperation, and connection. These meetings prevent serious issues and provide a forum for solving problems. They also increase social support and a sense of belonging. Case made; families can benefit from meetings, too!
Call these events Family Meetings, Family Gatherings, Family Check-ins or whatever works for you and your children. Make it meaningful, sincere and fun!
Suggested Family Meeting Guidelines
- Meet on a regular basis, at a specific time. Once a month is the least frequency. An ideal time for many families is after Sunday dinner.
- Use active listening and I messages to encourage clear communication.
- Use the meetings to solve problems, set goals, express appreciation, meet individual needs, and to plan fun family events and outings.
- Decide whether you want to keep minutes of your meetings. An adult might chair the meeting while a child might keep minutes. Trade responsibilities as the children learn note taking and chairing skills.
- Make clear commitments to one another. State either I will, or I won’t.
- Expect minimal involvement from family members five years of age and under.
- As the leaders of the family model listening skills, problem solving, cooperation, helpfulness and joy. Show joy for being part of such a loving, caring, and fun family.
Suggested Family Meeting Format
- Express Appreciation
Each person expresses appreciation to at least one family member for a favor, improved or desired behavior, or help from the previous week. Examples: “Thank you, Dad, for fixing my bicycle. Thank you, Johnny, for keeping your agreement to stay out of your sister’s room.”
- Check Previous Agreed Upon Solutions
Review solutions and agreements made at your previous meeting. Have the problems been solved? If yes, who made the most significant change? Acknowledge the positive change. If not, what needs to be adjusted? Example: We kept paper, toys and stuff off the stair steps all week and keeping our family safer. Good on all of us! Let’s keep this new habit.
- Problem Solve
- Identify Problems (complaints) of the week. Each person is allowed to identify one problem they want solved. They take ownership that it is their problem. Example: Mom: “I have a problem. I am not getting enough sleep. After everyone else is in bed, I do kitchen clean up, pack school lunches, tidy the house, and do the laundry.”
- Make a request. Example: “I want to do less of the household tasks and for you to do more.”
- Brainstorm optional solutions. Example: Dad: “I could tidy up after meals.” Oldest child: “I could get a meal once a week.” Middle Child: “I could do our own laundry.” Oldest child: We, kids, could make our own lunches.” Youngest child: “We could all clean the house together on Saturdays.”
- Discuss the options: Explore which ideas are the best for family members to follow-through on.
- Agree on your solution or solutions. Example: “Do we all agree that the children will make their own lunches and we will clean the house together Saturday mornings?”
NOTE: do not insist on complaints to come forward. If there are no problems to solve, celebrate a week of peace and cooperation. Make it a short meeting.
- Call for Requests
- State I Want: Each person can ask for one request or desire. A child might request that her bedroom to be re-decorated, or to buy a cell phone, or order pizza for dinner the next day or to go to Disney World. A parent might request a letter be written to grandma or be given a computer lesson, or a back rub. Obviously, parents have more power and control over fiances so have more way to give. At the same time, it is important for children to know they have gifts that will be gratefully received.
- Brainstorm optional ways to meet the desired goal: Examples: Dad:”We have a limited income. To go to Disney World, we would all have to pitch in. Each of us could put a part of our weekly earning or allowance into a jar until we can pay for the trip. It may take us a year but we can do it. What do you think?” or Mom: “Ordering a pizza for dinner would be great for me on Tuesday as that is a busy day for me.”
NOTE: Calls for requests minimizes children’s nags for services and goods. I recall our children saying something like this, “Awe, do we have to eat that? Can’t we order a pizza?” or “Why can’t I have my friends over on Sunday?” I delighted in saying, “Bring that request up at Family Meeting.”
- End with Fun
Play a game, watch a movie, go for a walk or share a dessert.
Do you see how family meeting can reduce family stress, solve problems, and increase the joy and sanity in your home? Please, if you hold a family meeting, let us know how it went. OK?
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