Many families may think family time is having a meal together, watching a favorite television show, or even going on a new family adventure. While each of these activities is family time and is important, having intentional family time, called the family meeting, is also important. Family meetings are planned or short-notice conversations, and each family member should be included. During these meetings, families talk about issues that are relevant to the family, such as rules, expectations, or upcoming events. These meetings can help keep a family organized and on the same page. They also can encourage a family to celebrate accomplishments and achievements together.
Regularly holding family meetings helps children understand they are part of a connected unit, and each family member can have an impact on how the household operates and succeeds. During family meetings, children should have a chance to talk through issues and use their listening skills as they hear others talk through different topics. Hearing, and being part of, healthy conversations will help your child develop positive communication techniques.
At times, children or youth may feel that some of their thoughts are uncomfortable to discuss. Family meetings can provide a safe environment for children to broach difficult issues and explore topics through discussion without feeling judged. By facilitating these types of discussion, you are offering your child an opportunity to learn how to listen without judgment and respect others’ viewpoints.
Try some of the tips below for your own family meetings:
- Create guidelines for family meetings
- Decide when and where meetings will be held. Make sure all family members are free to attend during the meeting time.
- Anyone in the family is allowed to call a meeting. Find ways to make your children or youth feel comfortable in suggesting a family meeting takes place. One idea is to have them call a meeting when they bring up a topic that could benefit from the whole household’s input.
- All family members should be invited to family meetings. Ensure each family member has a chance to speak and understands what decisions have been made and why and how these decisions were made.
- Have routine family meetings
- Family meetings should not always be about concerns or negative decisions or crises. Family meetings could provide opportunities to plan vacations, outings, celebrations, or family members’ accomplishments, or it could be a time to discuss next week’s dinner menu.
- Prepare an agenda, and ensure everyone sees it before the meeting. All family members should have the opportunity to know what topics are going to be discussed, so they may gather their thoughts, concerns, and solutions prior to the meeting.
- Make family meetings a positive interaction
- Start the meeting on a positive note. Even if the meeting is being called to discuss a crisis, incorporate positivity. One way to do this is to note a family member’s accomplishment that has happened since the previous meeting.
- Everyone should be allowed to talk. All family members should be heard, even if some opinions and ideas do not align with someone else’s thoughts and feelings.
- Everyone should practice active listening. Hearing what a person says is an important part of communication.
- Negative comments and put-downs should not be tolerated. If the tone of the meeting starts to become negative, pause and give everyone a chance to calm down. Then, resume the meeting at a later time.
- When possible, put thoughts and concerns to a family vote. After hearing everyone’s thoughts, if appropriate, let the family vote on the decision.
- Develop an Action Plan and use it. An Action Plan is one, or a series, of steps that will be executed to accomplish a goal. The action plan should be adopted by the family as a unit. A follow-up meeting may need to be held to evaluate how the Action Plan is going or determine if any changes need to be made.