If you work in an office environment, you may think of meetings as the bane of your existence. Love them or hate them, you can’t argue with the fact that meetings are a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Meetings are where plans are discussed, opinions are heard, and action steps are identified. If you need to share new information with all of the key players, you hold a meeting. If you need to change the way things are being done, you hold a meeting. If you need to boost morale, you hold a meeting. Face it—meetings work. So, why aren’t we using them at home?
A family meeting is time set aside on a regular (usually weekly) basis for the entire family to come together to communicate, make decisions, solve problems, share, and spend time together. Family meetings can be formal or informal, structured or unstructured.
The key to successful family meetings is consistency. The structure of the meeting will depend on the needs of your family; what matters is that the family meeting is a weekly ritual that the whole family can count on.
How to Conduct a Family Meeting
There is no right or wrong way to conduct a family meeting. Each family will find a system that works for them. The cornerstone to family meetings is equality—each family member participates in the meeting as an equal and everyone has an opportunity to contribute.
The structure and design of a family meeting varies depending on the age and ability levels of the children involved. Here is a general system that works for many families:
- Establish a specific weekly meeting time.
- In the days preceding the meeting, all family members can add agenda items to a centrally located chalkboard/whiteboard.
- Begin the meeting with an opportunity for each family member to share something positive.
- Review any issues that were discussed the previous week and discuss how (or if) the solutions are working.
- Address the agenda items that were written down prior to the meeting.
- Discuss solutions to any problems or concerns.
- Devise an action plan to solve any problems, complete with agreed-upon consequences and a schedule for follow-up.
- Discuss the family schedule for the upcoming week.
- Provide an opportunity for each family member to share something they are looking forward to in the upcoming week.
- Close with a fun family activity, such as a game.
Variations: As kids get older, some families choose to appoint a different child as a leader each week. This provides an opportunity for leadership and allows children to feel that they have a voice and a choice in the meeting.
Benefits of Family Meetings
All families have problems and challenges. The family meeting provides a calm, non-threatening forum for addressing the day-to-day challenges of life. Rather than spending time nagging kids about the toys that have piled up in the living room or the chronic failure to make the beds, you can simply add these items to the agenda for the family meeting and address them there.
Family meetings foster healthy communication and teach lifelong cooperation skills. Living in a family is no different than living in a community. By coming together to address issues and create a harmonious living environment, you’re teaching your kids skills that will serve them throughout life.
Finally, family meetings create a sense of closeness and a belief that “we’re in this together.” Families that maintain a weekly meeting are showing that they care, that family is important.