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A Family Meeting is a great way to make sure everyone’s on the same page, but unless you have a plan, they can end up being a waste of valuable time.
It seems like every time you turn around, something else is mom’s responsibility. Keeping track of the family schedule, planning the weekly meals, keeping up with the budget, and being the “enforcer” of the rules. A family meeting is just one more thing to add to the ever-growing list.
But if they’re planned right, they can end up making your life a little bit easier and relieve some stress. And to help you organize your best family meeting check out our Family Meeting Bundle. It includes an Agenda Items for Discussion form, The Notes Form, the Decision and Outcomes form, and a Family Meeting Rules printable.
WHY HAVE A FAMILY MEETING?
For starters, a family meeting will help to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. No one can say “I didn’t know” or “Nobody asked me”. Nope! No excuses!
If there’s a new rule, new chore list, family vacation being planned, or an event everyone has to attend, the family meeting is there to make sure everyone knows.
My mother held regular family meetings when I was growing up. When I started a family of my own, I didn’t incorporate that practice feeling it was old fashioned. Boy, was I wrong!
As my daughter started to get older I started to see the value in holding regular family meetings so we could all get on the same page. Even when we became a family of two and I became a single parent, we still had family meetings. It was a way to keep continuity in her changing world.
Today, I live in a multi-generational family and we hold regular family meetings to discuss everything from what are we having next week for dinner to projects we are working on, schedules and issues around the kids.
A family meeting is also a great way to bond. While happy memories are wonderful, the tough stuff is what really brings you together.
If there’s a difficult situation to deal with, you can deal with it together at the family meeting. All for one and one for all.
If you have a new work schedule that’s going to make it difficult for you to take care of some of your regular responsibilities, the family knows and can step up to help.
If you’re going through a particularly difficult financial struggle, you can all work together to come up with creative ideas to cut back. No one is left out of important decisions and information. You can face all your joys and struggles together.
Family meetings also teach your kids important life skills. By being exposed to the pressures and challenges of parents, kids can learn what the real world is like and how to deal with their problems in a productive way.
Family meetings teach your kids communications skills, problem-solving skills, planning, conflict resolution, and even budgeting.
Lastly, a regular family meeting helps your kids build confidence. As they learn to speak up for themselves at home, they’ll feel more confident to do it at school or with friends.
A family meeting gives your kids the opportunity to say what they think and express how they truly feel without judgment or punishment. It provides a safe environment for them to be who they are and say what’s on their mind.
ROCKING THE FAMILY MEETING
Now that you’ve decided to make family meetings part of your routine, there are a few things you can do to make it great.
SET A SCHEDULE
Schedule it ahead of time and set a regular day and time. Schedule your first meeting in advance so everyone knows it’s coming up and there are no surprises. Make sure it’s a day and time when everyone is available to attend. Scheduling in advance gives everyone the opportunity to think about what they want to discuss. At the first meeting, set a regular day and time for future meetings so everyone knows they have to be there, no exceptions.
If someone fails to show up, don’t go over what was discussed, point them to the Decision and Outcomes Form so they can get caught up. Eventually, your resistant family member will want in on the decisions that are being made by the family and join you for meetings.
KEEP IT POSITIVE
A family meeting shouldn’t be punishment. It also shouldn’t be about pointing fingers, “he did that” or “she said this.” Help everyone stay focused on the positive aspects. Ask your kids to share something good or funny that happened over the week. Keep it up-beat and enjoy the time together communicating openly.
If you do have to discuss difficult information and you’re not sure how best to approach the subject, my article on Managing A Difficult Conversation is a great resource for helping all members of the family approach the tough stuff without being or getting on the defensive.
MODERATE BUT DON’T CONTROL
Your family meeting may need some moderation from time-to-time as conversations can get off-course, but try to control the discussion. Let everyone participate with their own thoughts and ideas. If you have little ones, keep the conversation within their comprehension level so they don’t feel left out.
Gently remind them to come back to topic. Using the Family Meeting Rules printable is a great way to accomplish this task. Laminate it and keep it with your family meeting resources so you can refer to it often.
CHANGE IT UP FROM TIME TO TIME
Change up the environment. Be comfortable and experiment a little. You may find that conversation flows better if you’re outside at the park or at your favorite restaurant. A family outing may be the way to go if your little ones can’t focus for longer periods of time. Maybe a miniature golfing or arcade outing. As long as you’re all together and feel like you can talk freely and hear each other, it doesn’t really matter where you are.
GIVE EVERYONE A TURN
Give everyone the opportunity to run the meeting. This position of authority will help your kids build confidence. Allow them to take turns calling the meeting to order and going through the agenda. They can also be in charge of moderating the conversation and getting things back on track when they go off-course.
Give little ones a way to help with running the meeting by having them be the timekeeper. Give them a stop watch and have them start and announce when time is up. It’s a great way to involve small kids.
Be creative with the agenda. In addition to the important family stuff (money, rules, schedules, etc.) having something fun in the agenda to lighten up heavy discussions. Talk about something wonderful that happened over the week or create a fun family tradition for the meetings.
MAKE IT FUN
Plan something fun for the end of the meeting. Always end the meeting on a positive note with something enjoyable like family game night, movie night, or an ice cream sundae bar. If your family has something to look forward to, they’re more likely to continue to participate.
WRITE IT DOWN
If you make any new rules or discuss any future plans at your meetings, be sure to write them down and post them where everyone can see as a reminder to what was discussed. The Decision and Outcomes Form is a wonderful form to ensure everything is documented and everyone knows what their responsibilities are moving forward. Don’t leave out this step. Documenting is a critical skill for kids to learn and a good way to keep everyone accountable.
WORK TOWARDS CONSENSUS
It’s okay to have a difference of opinion. Find compromises so that everyone feels they are being heard. Otherwise, they’ll stop communicating and that’s the absolute wrong outcome for your family meetings. Remember your trying to works towards consensus so everyone is on board with decisions.
If you haven’t already planned your first family meeting, it’s time to get out your calendar and get it planned. It’s a great way to bring your whole family together as a team.
Remember, your family meetings don’t have to be boring or only discuss stressful situations. Including something fun and light will relieve stress for everyone and help to build a stronger connection for the whole family. It will also help your kids build their confidence and become better communicators – so many wonderful skills.