You play a critical role in the healthy development of your family and that’s a tall responsibility. Add that to raising kids during a pandemic. Life is stressful!
Give yourself a break. You have had and you do have a lot on your plate.
If you want your family to feel more cohesive and to be more aware of what’s going on with each, consider initiating family meetings. Many families have discovered the benefits of gathering together at a set day and time once a month (or week) to discuss each other’s lives, and to reinforce values and positive relationships.
Family meetings are a good thing, yielding knowledge and building bridges.
Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (William Morrow; 2017) says that when they are effectively organized and led, family meetings have many benefits. “Family meetings strengthen relationships and foster core developmental abilities in kids of all ages,” Morin says. These abilities can prepare kids for leadership positions in their endeavors, Morin says. They also provide an intentional way for parents to raise successful kids with internal abilities to help them navigate through life.
In the bestselling parenting book, Positive Discipline series co-authored by Dr. Jane Nelson, getting meetings started is a matter of putting your mind to it. Keeping them going will be your job, too.
Introducing Family Meetings
Introduce the concept to your kids before you dive in. The best time to do this is when you have their full attention, either over dinner or during a specific moment.
Start by saying that you’ve learned that weekly meetings can help families to communicate better and to solve problems together as a team. Family meetings work toward building consensus. Everyone has a voice and a role in solving problems. Meeting time is also an opportunity to have fun, plan trips and to know about each other’s lives. An important point about family meetings is that solutions and consequences apply to all members. It is truly an opportunity for your kids to feel seen, heard and understood by you.
For your meeting, create an agenda for your family or use something like the sample agenda shown here. Family meetings (not including a fun activity at the end if you opt for that) shouldn’t go on for more than an hour — less if your children are very young. Nelson says meetings are best for ages 4 and older.
Make sure when you hold your first family meeting that before you end it you set your next family meeting. Also, move your meeting along so it doesn’t get bogged down.
Sample Meeting Agenda:
(Every section gets 10 minutes to wrap up in an hour)
Create a short ritual to open your family meeting. Start with a poem, prayer, song, candle-lighting, etc.
Take a few minutes for each family member to appreciate, say “thanks,” compliment, or acknowledge other members on positive things they noticed this week. This may include a thank you for baking cookies, congrats on a great test score or a kind word about something nice that a person did. Cover everyone.
3. Discovery Time
Discuss 1) a current event, 2) something being learned in school or more, 3) commitments, 4) money management, 5) exercise, 6) entertainment, 7) community service or any other topic that may be of interest to your family. Share your opinions and values. Listen to your kids’ opinions and values.
4. Week in Review
In the bestseller, The Secrets of Happy Families, (William Morrow; 2013), author Bruce Felier suggests asking these three questions at each family meeting:
What worked well in our family this week?
What went wrong in our family this week?
What will we work on this coming week?
Dedicate time to resolving problems or issues that individual family members want to discuss. It is best to try to solve only one problem a week. If more than one issue has been placed on the agenda, find a fair way to address each one week by week. Ask each person to state his/her perspective about the problem, without judgment. Ask each person to suggest solutions. Which solutions are the most feasible? Does everyone agree? If no consensus is reached, mull over the solutions and revisit the problem next week.
6. Weekly Planning
What is your family planning together? Trips, concerts, sporting events, weddings, reunions? Your weekly planning is a good time to assign tasks to each family member, sync calendars and set goals for the future.
7. Fun Activity
Before you end the meeting, discuss fun opportunities coming up. Schedule a family game & taco night, discuss upcoming family travel or talk about birthdays on the horizon, etc. Consider rotating the responsibility for planning a fun activity each week among family members … but remember, everyone has a say!
Janie Snyderman is a writer, entrepreneur and a mom of two.