Today I want to talk about something we have been doing about as a family for several years now, that has made life more harmonious and stable, despite a lot of difficult transitions. We began having weekly family meetings when Amelia was four years old, and we were in the middle of the wild ride of 2011. Doing this helped us a lot during an awkward time, and family meetings have proven to be a great tool for harmony, cooperation and mutual understanding in the last few years, no matter what has been going on around us.
Having family meetings is something we do all year to connect, solve problems together, develop a vision for our family, and make plans.
How to Hold a Family Meeting
Schedule a time each week for your Family Meeting. We hold ours on Saturday mornings after breakfast. You can take minutes of the meeting if you want to, to keep track of the issues, solutions and plans you talked about, if you would like. Skip the notes if it becomes cumbersome. I’ll describe the format we use below.
1. Call the family meeting to order. This is a great role for the youngest child, and gets him or her engaged immediately.
2. Express Gratitude. Take turns expressing gratitude for something in general, thanking each family member for something specific, or paying a compliment to each family member. We alternate each week between thankfulness and compliments. Encourage one another, if you are going through a tough time: “I know this has been a really hard week for you, and I have noticed that you have worked really hard to be kind and not crabby. I know that hasn’t been easy, but you have done a great job!” Or, “I noticed you cleaned your room so quickly this weekend, without complaining– and I was super impressed. That was a very grown-up thing to do!” It’s so healthy for kids to see their parents thanking and complimenting each other, too.
3. Discuss Issues. Take turns talking about any concerns or problems any family member is having. This can be related to family dynamics, home responsibilities, personal struggles, or related to problems at school. Discuss together ways to solve the problems. Parents– do not rush to solve the child’s problem. Listen and reiterate his or her concern, and then ask what they think would help. After they have come up with some ideas, then you are free to suggest some as well. Come up with a plan to address these problems as a family. Take your time with this.
This is a good time to talk about discipline issues, too. For example, “Amelia, I have noticed that even though we keep asking you not to, you keep putting clean clothes in the laundry instead of putting them away. This makes a lot more work for me, and it’s frustrating. What do you think we can do to solve this problem?” Involving a child in discipline decisions is a powerful way to create mutual respect, collaboration and harmony. You may be amazed by the creative solutions your kids come up with, when you open the questions up to them!
We also use this time to discuss things like chores and responsibilities. If your child is asking for more independence in a certain area, perhaps you can brainstorm some new responsibilities to test her readiness for that freedom. And sometimes kids just feel left out and want to contribute more– ask how they would like to participate more in household responsibilities or family plans.
A quick story: The first time we had a family meeting, we asked Amelia (age 4) if there was any work she might want to do to help the family out. She eagerly described how she would like to set up a desk in her room with lots of papers and things where she could do paperwork for us. It was so freakin’ cute that I wished that I had been recording the meeting!
4. Make Plans. This is the fun part! Talk about anything you have on the agenda in the next week or two– trips you’ll take, people who are coming to visit, when the best night would be to have someone over for dinner, etc. Ask each other what they would like to see happen in the next week or two. Talk about tasks that need to be completed, and any relevant time frames. Knowing what’s coming up can really help kids feel more secure, and it’s a good opportunity for the adults in the family to get organized, too. If you can, keep a family calendar, and pull it out at this time to make notes. Keep it somewhere that everyone can see it. Try to make sure everyone feels involved in the family’s scheduling.
5. Wrap-Up. Review what was discussed and plans that were made, and end the meeting on a positive note. If you’d like, you can come up with a fun way to end the meeting– a family cheer, high fives all around, whatever works for you and gives your kids a kick. You can also keep a notepad somewhere that’s accessible to everyone, so you and others can make notes of things they would like to cover at the next family meeting.
This post is an adapted excerpt from my ebook, Pruned: Blossoming Through Life’s Difficult Seasons. Click here to check it out and to learn more about cultivating a strong family in difficult times.
What is your best tip for building harmony and cooperation in your family?
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