If your family has never held a family meeting, the idea might seem awkward and stiff at first, but that’s okay. Family meetings can take some time to get used to, especially for kids. Once you figure out what to talk about, you’ll find that a family meeting will help your family members become closer and help you dream of ways to do things that your family values. What’s essential, is to find a time each week to meet and connect.
• Choose a time when everyone (or almost everyone) can be there. We found Sunday evenings after dinner worked best.
• Generally speaking, keep meetings upbeat and fun.
• Discuss issues that affect the entire family, not just one or two family members.
• Coordinate schedules. Look ahead to the following week to work around conflicts.
• Brainstorm fun family activities. Some families have a weekly family meeting during one day of the week and a family fun time on another day of the week. Get activity ideas here >
• Keep meetings short and to the point. Think of the best business meetings you’ve attended. They probably didn’t stray from the agenda nor did they drag on too long.
• Meet every week, whether or not everyone is present. It’s okay to reschedule, as long as you continue to touch base weekly.
What Should You Talk About?
Dream Together! In our family, we love to dream together. We dream about what we wish we could change about our home. Last summer, our discussions led us to painting and redecorating one of our son’s bedrooms. We had a limited budget, but paint doesn’t cost much!
Make a Difference Together. We have a family member who is very environmentally conscious. He wants us to start composting, and he’s investigated different options. He also wants us to eat more organic foods, so we often have discussions about how our budget fits with making changes.
Have Tough Conversations We also use family meeting time to have difficult, and more serious conversations. My kids have one grandmother who is grieving the loss of her husband of 55 years. The other set of grandparents are grieving the loss of my mother’s stepmother and also my dad’s brother and sister. So we figure out ways to show our care, whether it’s making a handmade card, finding a humorous e-card, visiting with flowers or freshly baked cookies, or something else.
We also talk about family responsibilities. We ask each other: How are your chores going? What’s working? What’s not? How can they be improved? Who is taking more of the load than he or she should?
Are you having trouble getting your kids to do chores? Try these tips.
What about meals? Who is planning and preparing them? Who does the grocery shopping? Who sets the table? Who cleans up? Is all this working or is one person doing it all? (And if so, are other family members taking care of other important family matters, such as keeping the house clean, paying bills, taking out the garbage and so on?)
Have Fun! Most importantly, we never forget to have fun! Sometimes we play board games or card games. When the weather is nice, we like to go canoeing, biking, or hiking. We also enjoy movies and TV shows that make us think and laugh.
Tell Us: ——> Do you have family meetings? Are they successful?
1. Deb Gebeke and Kim Bushaw, “Family Communication and Family Meetings,” Work and Family Life Newsletter, volume 5, number 4, North Dakota State University, April 1991.
2. Family Communication, ParentFurther.
3. Image via jesse.millan on Flick’r.