How does all this happen? You're leading busy lives—what family isn't? Few of us are used to sitting down together and working on lists of values, rules, and goals. First, don't try to do it all at once! Schedule a few sessions to do it.
Family meetings aren't just for making lists. In general, they're a great way to pay attention to the inner workings of your family unit, and to help build inner discipline, or structure, into your family life.
Family meetings aren't required for healthy families, but, especially if you have a big, busy family, they are worth considering. They work best when they are regularly scheduled events, not just called when there's a family crisis. Here are a few uses for family meetings:
- To coordinate the running of the household; schedule car pools and rides, chores, special events, vacations, and holiday planning.
- To get input from everybody about larger family decisions that will be made by the parents.
- To announce family decisions.
- To discuss serious family issues, come up with new ideas, and problem-solve.
- To recognize and celebrate each family member's biggest accomplishments since the last family meeting.
- To kick back with each other, eat, drink, and be very merry.
Tales from the Parent Zone
The Green household is thick with tension. Nobody seems to have anything good to say to anybody else, and few conversations occur without sarcasm or yelling. The Brown household, on the other hand, is a mellow, enjoyable place to be, because family members seem to generally respect and appreciate each other. Besides being reasonable and respectful, it's nice to have a family where the feelings are generally positive, and the tensions relatively low, most of the time (are my expectations getting unreasonable or unrealistic yet? I don't think so).
When scheduling family meetings, remember:
- Plan the agenda ahead of time.
- Schedule meeting times far enough ahead of time that that particular time slot is empty on every family member's calendar. Family meetings are for everybody.
- Set up the agenda in advance so everybody can have input, and to avoid squabbles (stick up an agenda idea list in the kitchen).
- Keep family meetings to 30 minutes maximum. Otherwise, you'll achieve maximum burnout truly fast, and you'll be very sorry.
- Take turns planning and facilitating the meetings.
- Focus on the positive. Family meetings aren't only gripe sessions focusing on issues. Take some time each meeting to eat popcorn, sing, show off silly costumes, enjoy your family.