By Kelly McGinnis
Many clients have admired family meetings from a distance, but they do not know how to implement them in their own families. Other clients have questioned this idea of sitting down as a family wondering, “Why in the world would we do that?”
The research is strong regarding the benefits of family meetings, especially in this fast-paced hectic world. Some of the benefits include taking time to really connect, building a child’s self-esteem, learning compromise and cooperation, understanding other people’s perspectives, and giving children value and purpose.
By including children in decision-making and problem solving, they feel like they have a voice and are more connected to the family. They learn to consider more than just their own perspective and they feel they have a responsibility to the group, not just their own well-being. This is one of the largest predictors of success in later years.
Here are 5 simple steps to creating a great family meeting in your home. I strongly encourage you to make time and space in your family schedule to incorporate this beneficial parenting tool.
1. Choose a natural time and place. So often, when we think about family meetings, we think that it must be formal both in location and process. The exact opposite is true. Family meetings should be casual and comfortable for both parents and kids. Take into consideration the time that most of the family will be engaged. Try to avoid times when your family is hungry, tired, or there are added stressors happening. The more natural it feels, the more natural the conversation will feel. Some great places to hold your family meeting include around the dinner table, sitting on the couch, outdoors or away at a special family location.
2. Decide on the purpose in advance. It is important to establish an objective before you schedule the family meeting. Is this meeting to discuss an on-going family conflict, or is this meeting to do some family goal planning? Determining a purpose ahead of time gives everyone a chance to think about their role in the meeting and what they hope to expect from the discussion. Some kids do not like being put on the spot, so the advanced planning allows for children to prepare and feel like they are not being rushed or pressured. Family meetings can be held for a variety of reasons including deciding on upcoming vacations, family goal planning, awards, allowance, family financial talks/decisions, as well as problem solving.
3. Give everyone time to share. Yes, this means even the littlest family member will get to weigh in on the family discussion! One of the biggest needs of children is to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. What better way to show them that they belong than giving them a voice at the table. We as parents need to make a huge effort to listen to what our kids are sharing during this time and find ways that we can validate our children’s needs. This does not mean give them what they want. It simply means that we can empathize and acknowledge how they are feeling. This setting provides a safe place for our kids to express scary negative emotions.
4. Assign responsibility and discuss the means of measurement. Have you ever left a meeting and said to yourself, “Well that was a waste of time!”? Time is such an important commodity, and we want to be sure to honor each family member. When your family meeting is over, each person should have one action item and a way that they will be held accountable for that action item. An example of this might be a family meeting to discuss an upcoming trip. One child might be assigned the task of researching places to visit, and the other child can create a family packing list. Place a time-frame on the task and come back together to share. Remember the assignment does not always have to be correction based. Do not fall into the pits of negativity and always be looking for what is going wrong. Find what is going well!
5. Celebrate! Family meetings should not be 100% focused on fixing problems or discussing tough topics, although those items are important. Each family meeting should have time scheduled to build one another up. Some great ideas to try include: sharing how you saw one another use their strengths since the last family meeting, award humorous prizes that can be voted on by all family members, play fun music and have a 5 minute dance party, dress up when attending the family meeting, or serve a special treat during the family meeting. Anything that encourages connection and joy within the family will make the overall experience more enjoyable for all. This will also motivate you to consistently schedule family meetings; it is a time to have fun as well as motivate our kids and align the family goals.
Family meetings are a powerful tool for both parents and children. If you are interested in incorporating your parenting strengths or the strengths of your children into your next family meeting, please visit my website www.shineonfamily.com and click on the button that says “Take the Incredible Parent Assessment.”
Kelly McGinnis is a “Certified Bring Baby Home Educator” and “Certified Incredible Coach.” She has been helping parents for the past 14 years. She enjoys helping parents move from frustration to fascination and restore joy and peace to homes across the country. She is married and has the privilege to be called Mom by her three beautiful girls. To find out more about all that Kelly offers, please visit www.shineonfamily.com.