Having a family meeting can be a useful way for parents and kids (and any other family members living in the home) to come together and talk openly about how everyone is doing. It can also be a productive time for resolving any conflicts, acknowledging everyone’s feelings, and identifying changes that might help the family work better together.
Now, more than ever, having regular family meetings could be beneficial in helping everyone manage being stuck at home while we are all sheltered in place. As each family member faces the challenges of so many new changes to their day-to-day lives, it’s important to have open and honest discussions about how everyone is feeling and what everyone needs during this difficult time.
There are lots of emotions about this Pandemic and how it is affecting us all, and spending quality time talking it through with the people we love most can be an effective way to feel validated and supported. Then there are the important roles each family member has in maintaining a clean and organized home. What is working and what is not working? That can be determined in these meetings, and new rules and guidelines can be made accordingly.
One of the easiest ways to schedule these family meetings is when everyone is already coming together, whether it’s for a meal or a game night or a movie night, etc. Sometimes the meetings are short and easy. Other times, some issues arise that need to be addressed, or new ideas are sifted through, and strategic plans are made.
It’s good to have someone in the family write down any important information that was shared so that nothing is forgotten. Bringing those notes back to each meeting will help everyone be accountable for what transpired.
Family meetings don’t have to be complicated or exhausting, long or boring. You can structure them with just a few questions for everyone to take turns answering. It’s also important to set a few rules to keep the meeting from becoming chaotic or disruptive. Set guidelines for your family members to follow so there are no interruptions or arguments that take over the group time. Our family has four rules:
- When it’s someone’s turn to speak, no one can interrupt until they are done talking. Raise your hand if you want to respond to what others are saying.
- Respect one another by owning your feelings. Say “I feel” instead of “You make me *insert feeling*” any time you have an issue with someone else in the family.
- Be honest.
- Put effort into making our family the best it can be.
Once you have the family meeting time scheduled and you have established the rules, next is the discussion. Every family will have various ways of running the meeting according to their family’s specific needs.
Our family members take turns leading the meeting so that each of us (especially the kids) feels important and learns the responsibility of this role. The leader is also the one who takes notes. On the notepad is the outline of the questions asked in every meeting where notes can be made for each person’s answers. We keep a record of previous meetings to revisit if necessary.
Our family uses these questions for every meeting:
- What three things went well this week?
- What three things did not go well this week?
- What changes do you suggest would improve those things?
- Say one thing you are grateful for about our family.
These are very general questions that leave room for anyone to share either personal experiences or family experiences. They are open-ended on purpose. This gives room for each person to share whatever is important to them. Perhaps what didn’t go well wasn’t necessarily a family issue, but a personal one. Either answer is valuable in creating unity and connection within the family. Maybe nothing can improve the situation (question #3), but having the support of your family sure helps.
These questions are good conversation starters that open up room for dialogue. Sometimes other family members might suggest ways to improve certain problems shared or commend someone for a job well done. Other times, someone might be told they need to put more effort into respecting someone’s space or work on their manners. It might get messy and yet, this is the time to clean up all the miscommunication too. It’s important we end on a positive note, by everyone identifying one thing they are thankful for about our family. It’s a perfect way to appreciate the gifts our family has, no matter the challenges we face.
A family meeting doesn’t have to be seen as some obligatory duty to cross off the family’s checklist. Instead, it can be a special time carved out for coming together and engaging in each other’s lives, offering support and help and love for one another.
Even when we are stuck at home with no one else but our family members around, that doesn’t mean we are actually having valuable interactions. Oftentimes, we aren’t really talking to one another, or sharing each other’s feelings, or working together to improve our family’s dynamics. There are many days when we are all functioning through life, doing our own thing and simply passing by each other in the kitchen while grabbing a snack. It’s easy to let communication go when we are all just trying to manage this new normal in our own way.
Taking the time to have these family meetings might be the best way we can grow closer together, understand one another better, and learn from each other too. It can be something your family looks forward to doing because everyone has a voice and everyone is heard. The more you have them, the more you’ll figure out the best way to meet each other’s needs, manage life together better, and love each other well.
This is a contributed post by Christine Carter. She writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications and she is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World”. Both sold on Amazon.