By Sharlin Craig
Independent coach – Santa Ana, California, USA
Why do family meetings? It’s one of the most effective and bonding moments families can do to create greater harmony and connection.
Of course if that sounds too formal and business like, you can call your family meetings anything you’d like: Family talks, family chats, family pow-wows, Sunday sessions, etc.
What do you do in a family meeting? You get to tailor it to what fits best for your family. You can even have a family meeting to decide what you want to cover in your family meetings!
Benefits of Family Meetings
• First of all, and one of the best parts, is that it gives your kids a voice and a feeling of importance. Kids want to feel valued and heard, and by having them participate in the meeting, it gives them that validation.
• It allows your child to take a leadership role. If they’re old enough to take notes, they can be the secretary. Or one can read the notes from the last meeting. Maybe one can re-state the family meeting rules, etc.
• Family meetings teach kids good manners, listening skills and patience. Each family member takes turns speaking, so kids have to wait for their turn to speak and contribute and also need to display good listening skills for others as they talk.
• It teaches the family members to hear and honor other’s ideas and to compromise. It can be a great tool for siblings to work out any issues and show appreciation for each other. It helps teach kids how to solve problems while everyone is calm and receptive.
• The family experiences an increase in sense of belonging and cohesiveness. The family is able to work together to build their unique family brand, through defining their family values.
• The family meetings help families organize their time and set goals, so kids learn organization and goal setting skills through this process.
• Family meetings should have a silly, fun component so the family members laugh, connect and enjoy each other’s company.
• Family meetings are a great opportunity to be sure fun family outings are added to the schedule and that events coming up that week are addressed.
A Couple of Tips:
• Yummy snacks during the meetings can help resistant kids be more enthusiastic. You can also follow the meeting with a fun game or pizza which can be a great motivator for hesitant kids.
• A Meeting Agenda form can be left on the fridge during the week so any ideas that come up during the week can be written down to talk about at the next family meeting. If you post this in a place on the fridge where the kids can reach it, they can add to the agenda as they think of things. This helps reassure kids that any concerns they have during the week will be addressed at the meeting.
Here are some ideas on how to run a family meeting. Each family can pick and choose what fits their particular needs and interests:
1. Be sure to get a good-sized notebook to turn into your Family Meeting Notebook. You’ll be using this for all your meeting notes, etc.
2. Explain to your family that you have a super fun way to plan as a family and that you’re going to be starting family meetings that will last from about 15-30 minutes.
3. Decide as a group what the best time is to hold these weekly family meetings. Sundays over breakfast? Sundays over dinner? Where should the meetings be held? At the dining room table, in the kitchen, at a pizza parlor, in the back yard?
4. Discuss what you’d like to call the family meetings. Maybe have the kids decorate the front of the journal with the name you decide on.
5. Decide as a group what you’d like to use as your talking stick (only the person with the talking stick has the right to speak, while the rest of the family listens.) We use a tin flute and we can also blow on it if everyone is talking at the same time. (Blow the tin flute)
6. Discuss what the meeting rules will be such as:
• Talk and listen to each other respectfully.
• Only one member talks at a time (while using the talking stick).
• No over-talking or interruptions
• No electronics
7. Decide on a family motto statement or Family Values such as: Be kind, try your best, be grateful, help out, be honest, respect one another, laugh and have fun What are your family values that you want to guide your family lives? You can also write these in the front of your journal or even have the kids decorate the cover of the journal with the motto or values.
8. Be creative with the agenda. Being flexible with the Family Meeting is important to make it work for everyone. If the meeting is too much like school or “preaching”, kids will tune out.
1. A great way to start meetings is by each person saying something they appreciate about each family member. “I appreciate that Julia shared her toys with me”, “I appreciate that Mom made Mac and Cheese for dinner”, etc.
2. Possible things to talk about:
• Review the notes from the last family meeting and any notes added throughout the week on the agenda sheet and discuss. Be sure you as parents have followed through on the agenda from the last meeting as the kids will follow your example.
• What’s going on this week?
• Ideas for fun family outings or activities to do together. Put on the calendar!
• What went well in our family this past week? What didn’t go so well? What can we do better this week? (Make sure that negative issues don’t dominate the meeting, or kids will stop enjoying the meetings.) If there’s a family concern, the family can brainstorm together for solutions and narrow it down to one best solution. This needs to be done in a way where no one is made to feel wrong, and needs and wants are said kindly, without attacking anyone. Try to find a win-win situation where everyone feels happy listened to.
• What exciting or wonderful thing happened this week that we can celebrate as a family?
• What are we grateful for?
• What family goals should we set?
• What’s one new thing we each learned last week?
• What positive affirmation or “Zeal Talk” can we focus on as a family this week? Some examples could be: “Enthusiasm finds opportunities”, “Everything changes when I choose to be positive”, or “I speak kindly and respectfully”. Can we commit to reminding each other to practice it this week?
Ending the meeting:
1. Each person can say something that they’re looking forward to in the coming week. This ends the meeting on a positive, upbeat note.
2. Take turns each week picking the fun activity for immediately after the meeting. This can be a board game, going for a family walk, doing an obstacle course outside, playing catch, going for a bike ride, etc.
3. Ending with a group hug is a great way to end your family meeting!