Family meetings provide a great opportunity for busy families to stay connected, learn about what is going on in each other’s lives and teach communication and problem-solving skills. Here are some general guidelines for how to hold the meetings in ways that make sense for families.
1. Make certain to hold the meetings to less than 1 hour. Find ways to make them fun. Begin with a funny family story or ask if anyone wants to tell a joke. Serve hot chocolate and cookies or some kind of interesting snack.
2. Rotate the leadership of the meetings. Let the parents be in charge of the first few meetings and then share with all of the children who are old enough to handle it.
3. Appoint someone to be the secretary to record all of the important family decisions. The parents can begin with this duty, but after the first few meetings, any of the children who can write can rotate this responsibility.
4. Let everyone decide on the best day and time to hold the meeting … a time that fits best with everyone’s schedule. Try to hold to this time as much as possible recognizing that, with families and scheduling, there is always a need for some flexibility.
5. Begin the meeting on a positive tone and try hard to keep it that way throughout the meeting. Start with a question such as “What is one good thing that happened to you this week?” and go around the room giving everyone a time to share in the discussion. The parents should offer lots of positive comments about each child’s experience, again modeling that we are going to be kind and supportive of everyone.
6. The next “go around” might be about schedules for the week. Who needs rides where? Who has events, big projects due at school, what nights are parents going to be out, etc.?
7. The final go around can be about problem-solving. Who has dilemmas that need to be discussed? This can include problems about household chores, disagreements with each other, etc.? This is the time to talk about problems in constructive and positive ways. The parents should find ways to keep the discussion positive, focusing more on what each wants from the other rather than what is wrong with each other.
8. Finally, the secretary should make sure that he/she has recorded any family plans or decisions that have been made. Decide on the best place to post the family decision record.
9. Make the commitment to meet again and schedule the time.