It is never too late to start having family meetings. Take the step. Make family meetings work for you and your family.
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World War II Poster Collection from the Northwestern University Library
“I want everyone in the living room NOW!” My dad would yell. Quickly, my sister, brothers and I went to the living room and sat down. Mom would be sitting on the couch and dad would be standing. In his hands he held a note card or two. The family meeting has begun. We, the kids, would sit there quaking in our shoes or trying to keep our faces from showing any emotions as mom and dad lectured and told us how things were going to be. Just about every question was rhetorical. The meeting would conclude and we were to adhere to the way the parents wanted things done. After all, it is their house so it’s their rules.
Well, that is not my idea of a family meeting. I don’t think this method was very effective. Family meetings don’t have to be dreaded. They can be fun. Family meetings are a great tool to keep lines of communication open, share what is going on in each person’s life, build family unity and even work on problem solving skills. This is a time when each family member has a chance to voice ideas and concerns in a supportive setting without feeling that their concerns will be ignored. Family meetings are one step in building strong families.
Here are some tips for effective family meetings:
· Be consistent- schedule them on the same day and time each week
· Have an agenda- post the agenda at a central location with room for family members to add things they want to discuss
· Set some ground rules- establish ground rules at the first family meeting (take turns speaking, do not judge)
· Designate a secretary-write down what is discussed and post in a central location (on the refrigerator or by the calendar)
When creating the agenda I like to start off with something positive. My basic family meeting agenda looks like this:
· Topic #1- Share something that made you feel good this week. This sets the tone of the meeting.
· Topic#2 – Share something that bothered you this week. This might be something that happened within the family, at school or at work. Airing grievances gives an opportunity for others to share their perspective and help problem solve or just show understanding.
· Topic#3- Share something you want to work on this week. This is a good time to work on problem-solving skills. It also is a great time to offer encouragement to the family members.
· Topic#4-Share your schedule for this next week. Get out your calendars for this one. It’s time to fill up the family calendar, sync schedules and figure out logistics. For parents this is a great way to know what is going on in your children’s lives.