Welcome May and with a new month comes a new topic:
Hosting Family Meetings
Why is it that Spring always seems to spring upon us so quickly? It feels like we just celebrated the New Year!
For many families, Spring usually brings a host of new schedules, a plethora of sports and activities, longer evenings that rapidly fill and for many of us, the novelty of it all soon wears out and it can all become a touch too much. The structures and routines we once had in place, that have sub-consciously brought us some form of comfort, can become lost in the Spring madness and busyness.
This time of year can become somewhat overwhelming.
So why a family meeting I hear you say! Isn’t there already enough in our diaries without adding more?
Yes but no. They are really important and here’s why:
When done well, Family Meetings become the backbone and safe place for the family.
Think about any successful business or team and you will know where I’m going here. Each player knows their role, knows their position, knows the score, knows what is expected of them, is respectful of their team mates, knows the plan and has a keen sense of direction and purpose.
How? By regularly coming together to touch base and discuss things. This successful, smooth operational process and organizational harmony does not happen by osmosis, it is carefully planned!
Families are really no different and by hosting regular Family Meetings they too can experience the benefits and successes of doing so.
It’s a bit of an oxymoron but I honestly believe that the busier the family becomes, the more they need to hold family meetings.
The Family Meeting becomes the hub for family communication. It becomes the go to for family affairs, scheduling, solving conflict, coming up with a plan and appreciating each other.
Family Meetings help to form the glue that under-pins, stabilizes and supports family life.
The more you do it, the stronger it becomes. The stronger it becomes, the more successful and supportive it will be.
Children need predictability, routine and structure. They also love rituals. Family Meetings give them all of this and more. They can become the most deeply treasured and best of family rituals. They can become such a fundamental part of family life that no-one will want to miss them. They are where important things are discussed and family decisions are made. When done well, they can also be a safe place where children will feel heard and can be vulnerable. In such a fast paced world, they also give children a tremendous sense of belonging, grounding, security and comfort.
Family Meetings also give families the opportunity to recognize the craziness and therefore the need to take regular speed checks in order to slow life down to a pace that is more compatible with what children really need.
Family Meetings also provide a great place for our children to learn many life skills:
- Connection and relationship building
- Collaborating and finding solutions
- Diplomatically sharing and raising concerns
- Listening without interrupting
- Resolving conflict respectfully
- Planning and scheduling
- Appreciating each family member’s uniqueness
- Bringing out the best in people and encouraging
- Being vulnerable
- Giving support and empathizing
Hopefully you don’t need any more convincing. Family Meetings will bring you more than you could have ever imagined.
If you have never had one, here are a few ideas for getting yourself started:
- Select a day and time which the family can regularly commit to, schedule it and then commit to it. Value it and prioritize it. Sundays, after or before dinner is often a good time for many families I know.
- To start the meeting, it’s nice to begin with some appreciations. For example, you can go round in a circle taking turns to say something encouraging about the person to your right or say something that you were proud to have achieved during the week or something you have learned this week, it could be a heart warming news story or anything with a positive message
- Discussions (see general pointers below)
- You can record the session, a bit like the minutes of a meeting in a Family Meeting Journal. These journals can become family heirlooms much like photo albums. My kids often plough through ours and inevitably end up laughing so hard about what we actually discussed!
Some general pointers:
- For families with younger kids, and if you are just starting out with this process, ideally you need to keep the discussions short and very sweet. You know your kids best, and their ability to sit round a table, so make sure that you structure it accordingly and age appropriately.
- You need to create a relaxing atmosphere so that the meeting becomes an occasion your children will look forward to. Finishing your Family Meetings with a special dessert or playing a family game can be a nice way to achieve this.
- When you start hosting Family Meetings, and especially with younger children, it is key that they are non-confrontational, kept positive and a fun place to be. No child, of any age, will want to attend a meeting where they are just going to be reprimanded for all the things they haven’t done; where the only thing being discussed is what is not working.
- For the first few months, I suggest keeping the discussions to literally choosing a fun family activity for the forthcoming week. We get each family member to choose a meal that they would like to eat the following week. This is great for me as it meal plans for 5 of the 7 meals that I cook. Bonus!
- As you host more meetings and everyone is comfortable with the way it is progressing, then you can start adding in a bit more. You can ask your children to share some concerns and practice discussing them and collaborating in a respectful way. Once you have done this for a few sessions, you can gradually start to share some of your concerns but making sure that it does not sabotage the entire meeting and let it end up being a big finger pointing, blaming and shaming affair.
We like to bring our big family paper calendar to the table and run through what the following week is going to look like and discuss any scheduling and car pooling options etc. I find that it sets us up well for the week ahead with everyone roughly knowing what’s on, where and with whom.
You can add your own spirit to your Family Meeting, make them as formal or informal as you like, it’s totally up to you.
And, always finish on a high note, no matter what has gone down in between.
And on that high note, I am saving the best till last. Throughout the month of May, I will be sending you three of my best tips on how to make your Family Meetings even more successful. You won’t want to miss them as they will really help you get your Family Meetings off to the best possible start. To get these, make sure you sign up here via the sign up box for your FREE Parent Coaching on my website.
What day are you going to host your Family Meeting and why? I’d love to hear from you.