Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Full time jobs, busy life, teenagers. Sometimes, before we realise, our happy close family slowly become distant.
Don’t worry, it is possible to bring the family back together, however it does require a bit of ‘work’.
Family meetings are a good way to come together, make an announcement, or talk through an issue that affects whole family. Families can use these discussions to resolve specific conflicts that might have just been argued about in the past or to bring back a new, fresh ideas.
Having regular meetings gives you a chance to model positive communication as a family. Sometimes family meetings can bring on conflict. It’s not always easy, but it is necessary to learn to communicate your needs and work through struggles in a healthy way.
There are few tips for successful family meetings 😊
- Set up the meeting rules first.
You can involve the family to set up meeting rules together, during your first meeting (for example ‘We will listen other person’s view before we comment on it” etc.)
- Rotate meeting responsibilities (e.g., leader, secretary and timekeeper)
- Set up the agenda:
- begin creating a family meeting agenda by setting a date and time (meetings no longer than 15-30 minutes).
- decide on family meeting topics or a list of items to be discussed ahead of time.
- what to do first at your family meeting
- what to do last at your family meeting
- list of Items to be discussed.
- remember to end on a positive note.
- Give everyone the chance to have a voice.
Of course, parents hold the majority of the decision-making power in families, but children have some great ideas too.
- Bring up concerns.
All families have issues and disagreements. A family meeting is a safe place to clear the air and create resolutions.
- Keep it rather short.
15 minutes, maximum 30 minutes is enough. It is important to meet at a regularly scheduled time.
- Use problem-solving.
Family meetings are just as much about modelling good process as about reaching good outcomes. If there are lots of different views, then use the problem-solving steps to reach consensus. Problem-solving steps are as follow:
1. We define the problem,
2. We come up with different solutions,
3. We evaluate those options,
4. We decide on the best solution,
5. We do it
6. We look back and decide whether or not we chose the right solution (and adjust for next time if necessary)
- Use “I feel…” messages instead of “You are…”
Often when we are upset we start sentences with “You are so…..” or “You do this all the time and it makes me mad” etc. When the person we are talking to hears this, they immediately go on the defence. Try starting sentences with “I feel sad when…” or “I get upset when…” This helps the other family members understand how you feel and what you want changed without feeling personally attacked.
- Ignore sabotaging behaviour.
Especially teenagers might not be convinced that you are really going to listen to them. It may happen that at first your teenager might test the ground with negative behaviour to see if you are really committed to this new format. Just ignore it. If he comes up with silly ideas, don’t dismiss them. Just thank him for his contribution. (Of course your teenager may be absolutely fine with it, but this is one of the possible behaviours.) As they see the process in action and discover that you really are paying attention to what they say and valuing their opinions, the behaviour will probably fade away.
- Make notes and summarise decisions.
Family meetings can be as formal or informal as you like. If you want, you can take proper minutes. But at the very least, make sure that decisions are noted down and actions agreed. At the end of the meeting summarise what has been agreed so that everyone is clear who is going to do what and what is going to happen next.
- Value everyone’s views (set it as a meeting rule).
That means listening. Everyone is listening to other people’s views first. No jumping in to contradict or defend. Everyone should have a turn to be heard, even if the final decision is not exactly what they wanted.
- Keep it upbeat.
Don’t forget to talk about the good things that happened during the week. The family meeting is about communication, which will lead to better connections between family members, and it's much easier to communicate when you're having a good time.
- Help each other resolve any issues.
Remember that this is a bonding tool designed to teach as well as inspire everyone that being close as a family is the best thing for all concerned. Keep talking about things until everyone agrees or at least ‘agrees that it's OK to disagree’ if that makes sense.