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A family meeting is a dedicated time to sit down together for discussions about family matters. The planning process ensures you use the time wisely and makes the meeting appealing to all family members to maximize participation. Get into a routine with your family meetings to make the planning process easier.
Benefits of Family Meetings
Family meetings may seem like something you see on a sitcom, but they are beneficial for every family as a communication and bonding tool. When you meet regularly, you connect with one another despite your busy family schedule. It's a chance to sit down together to catch up and address issues.
Family meetings also help foster a sense of cooperation. You're working together as a family to discuss issues, solve problems and make plans. Everyone feels as if they have input on family decisions and issues, ranging from who is responsible for various chores to the destination of your next family vacation. Kids may feel more valued when they're involved in the discussion instead of always being told what's happening.
These family gatherings are also a good time to work on conflicts. Maybe one child feels he has an unfair amount of responsibility or two siblings have been fighting over bathroom time. Perhaps you need to rework the schedule for a shared vehicle for your teen drivers. The meetings can bring your family closer together and improve the family dynamics.
Schedule the Meeting
Having a consistent meeting time helps you get in the habit of holding family meetings. The frequency is a personal preference depending on how you use the meetings and how many things you have to discuss. You might meet weekly just to touch base on upcoming activities and schedules for the next week. Every other week might be enough for some families.
No matter how often you meet, choose a particular day and time. The meetings might take place every Tuesday evening or every other Sunday afternoon. That way, everyone knows that time is filled every week. When choosing a day, consider your usual schedule. Pick a time with few or no scheduling conflicts, so everyone can attend. If your kids have practices, clubs and other commitments every night except Wednesday, opt for Wednesday meetings, so you aren't rushed. If all weekdays are busy, set aside time on the weekend.
Timing is another issue. Don't schedule it too late, or you may end up with crabby participants and no productive results. You also don't want the meetings to interfere with activities like homework time or meals. Block off a designated amount of time and plan other activities around the family meeting.
Create an Agenda
An agenda keeps you on track, helps you make good use of the time and ensures you cover all the important topics. To make the family meetings more meaningful to the kids, let everyone add topics to the agenda. Post a clipboard in a shared area with a sheet where family members can write down their agenda issues. Set a deadline for adding items to the agenda, so you have time to organize the topics.
You can also establish family meeting agenda ideas to hit each time. For example, you might open by reading the notes from the previous meeting. Other topics that often come up at every meeting include upcoming activities or special events, money requests from the kids for upcoming activities, chore assignments, revisiting previous topics that need more discussion and introducing new topics.
Create a positive atmosphere by setting aside time for family members to share nice things that other family members did for them. You can also share happy memories from the past week or other uplifting messages. Set aside time for a fun activity during the meeting. Open with an icebreaker activity or wrap up with a fun game.
Encourage Everyone to Attend
It's a family meeting, so it makes sense to have all family members attend. Keep in mind that young kids can't participate as well as older kids and teens. Another consideration is that teens may not want to go to a family meeting. Forcing them to go often results in conflict. A better approach is to encourage attendance without making it mandatory. Your teen may eventually come around even if she skips some of the meetings.
You can make your kids more excited about going to the meetings by keeping them upbeat and fun. Not all topics are fun, but you can still add lighthearted elements. To lighten the mood, you might play a quick game or do some brain teasers between the heavy agenda topics. Giving kids ownership in the meetings also encourages them to show up.
Give Everyone Responsibilities
Let the kids take part in running the meeting. If the parents are always in charge, it's really not a collaborative meeting. It's just an organized time when you tell the kids what's going to happen in the family. For your first few family meetings, you may want to take charge to get into a routine. After that, hand over the reigns to the kids. You might take turns having different family members lead the meeting. Assign the note-taking duty to a different person each time. Let kids introduce their own agenda items. These little things make the meeting seem a lot more appealing to the younger family members.
Keep the Meetings Productive
Family meetings often evolve over time. As you hold more meetings, you can start to see which family meeting ideas are most helpful and which are better getting cut. Listen to feedback from your kids to make the meetings more enjoyable. Think about ways you can make the meetings more productive. By letting the meetings evolve naturally, you make them more meaningful while using your time effectively.
- David Sacks/Photodisc/Getty Images