It used to be that the start of the school year was always busier than other times but nowadays it seems like every month is as busy as the last. When I suggest that you try and make time for adding something else into your already crazy schedule, you might look at me and say, really? You are kidding me!! Stay with me here because doing this will might just help you ease the craziness!
The most successful families do this and I’m talking about FAMILY MEETINGS.
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 teammates, 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 do 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 a conflict, coming up with a plan and appreciating each other.
Family Meetings help to form the glue that underpins, 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 heartwarming 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 around 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 make 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 carpooling 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.
The topic of Family Meetings is such an important one that I chose to focus on it in The Conscious Family Organizer, where Family Meetings was the topic of the THEME page for the month of February which was on Connection. This organizer is currently undergoing a transformation and I’m super excited as to what it is going to evolve into.
What day are you going to host your Family Meeting and I’d love to hear from you?
PS. If you are not already part of my Private FB Coaching Support Group called Parenting In The Thick Of It, please hop on over to FB and make sure you join the tribe. I’d love to see you there.
PPS. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my podcast The Parenting In The Thick Of It Show, there’s lots of super cool content there. I try to keep episodes short and sweet to allow for busy moms like you to find 10 minutes to get the odd parenting tip squeezed into your busy days.