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Posted on 06-07-2012

Good morning everyone!

The family meeting: It's something we have all heard about and might even do as a family. Now that summer has arrived and most kids are out of school, it's important to get together regularly as a family and discuss plans, activities and issues.

As a stress reliever, family meetings work wonders. If you're "too busy," that means it's time for you to plan and talk in order to de-stress your hectic life. I want to explain how to build the perfect family meeting and why it's important.

The Benefits
Overall, consistent family meetings act as a stress reducer. Whether kids are in or out of school, parents are working or at home, holding these meetings will help work out the details in everyone's schedule. Family meetings aid communication and organization, reduce stress and encourage cohesion.

Also, children and adults alike often do better with structure. These meetings are a great way to introduce children to structured meetings and planning they might practice in school or someday in business. Children as young as 4 or 5 years old can be involved in family meetings.

The Structure
The meeting should occur weekly in a distraction-free setting, and last no more than about 30 minutes. Always keep a meeting agenda posted somewhere visible like the refrigerator. Then allow everyone in the family to add agenda items to the list at any time. The kids will love knowing that their concerns and ideas will be heard and taken seriously during the upcoming discussion.

However, the children should be told that this does not mean the family is a "democracy" where they have equal votes on important decisions. The parents are clearly the family leaders who necessarily retain authority to make important decisions after hearing input from everyone at the table.

When it's time for the meeting, assign a note taker. This person will be responsible for taking notes and at the meeting's conclusion, reviewing and summarizing the topics, ideas and action items with the other group members. Here are four components that might be incorporated when designing a structured family meeting (feel free to come up with your own):

  1. Positive Affirmation - Start the meeting on a positive note. Ask each person to share with the group something he or she did during the past week that they feel good about. This teaches self-affirmation.

    Family meetings also offer a great opportunity to give and receive compliments and positive feedback among family members. Parents could set the example by complimenting each family member, including each other, regarding something positive they observed about that person during the past week. Perhaps the kids got a good grade, did their chores without a hassle, helped each other with a task, got a part in a play or played well in a sport. This is also a great opportunity for the children to learn that they can affirm and thank their parents for something they did for the child or family during the week.   

  2. Problem Solving - There's no better time than a meeting to work out problems between family members or outside sources. By incorporating the "solution" aspect, children learn to shift from merely griping or complaining about problems to brainstorming possible constructive solutions and outcomes.

  3. Planning - A great way to get everyone in the family on the same page is a monthly calendar. Whether it's the school season or summer, it's important to know everyone's schedule to help ease stress-especially on parents. Bring a large monthly calendar to the family meeting and plan the next week's schedule together.  Hanging the calendar in a common area will allow the family to know what's coming up and avoid stressful scheduling conflicts.

  4. Activities - During the last part of the meeting, give it a fun and positive twist. Talk about vacations, fun family outings or activities like going to the lake, or holidays that are coming up in the next month or two.  Take suggestions from the entire family about what to do during those events and fun activities to try.

Parents Only
As parents, it's essential to not only lead your family but also to establish boundaries for your own relationship. A part of reducing stress for yourself and the rest of your family is to take time alone. Try a date night at least once a week with no kids. It's a good idea to make sure your kids know that it's important for mom and dad to have time alone and that nurturing their relationship is a high priority.

There's never a better time than now to start family bonding! Try using this structure during your next family meeting!

Have a blessed day!

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