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Effective Family Meetings

By: Linda Sorkin, LMFT, Soul Empowered Coaching
Making time to meaningfully connect with our family is critical for creating and fostering a successful family life. Family meetings can keep us committed to a regular scheduled time to communicate, share and bond with each other. We can use the meeting as a time to review house rules, set goals, keep track of everyone’s lives, assess needs, resolve conflict, teach problem solving skills, express gratitude, and work on behaviors. It is challenging keeping up with the pace of today's lifestyle. It’s just too easy to let time slip by and distractions disconnect us with our kids unless an event or misbehavior has occurred.

As parents we often find ourselves working long hours, paying the bills, chauffeuring the kids to their activities, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning the house, helping with homework and trying to make time for our spouse, friends or even our favorite episode of “Modern Family” or “Glee.” OK, now I am exhausted! A points and reward system for behavior is a great way to incorporate family meetings and discuss the progress our children are making with behaviors we expect from them.

Tips to use when conducting your family meeting:

  1. Schedule a regular meeting during the most convenient time for everyone. Dinner hour is usually the best time to gather the troops. However, be realistic about how often you choose to have meetings. Keep your expectations in check. Also, let everyone know in advance when you will be meeting to increase cooperation.
  2. Picking a topic for discussion can allow your family members to come prepared or not be caught off guard with your intentions. Choosing to go with what your family presents is also a way to address the most pressing issue in the moment. Often times, being spontaneous is a good way to encourage conversation and problem solving skills.
  3. Use the meeting as a time to review behavior charts, behavior rules, and progress. Discuss what you believe to be working and what is not. For instance, if you are wanting your child to get themselves ready for school in the morning, discuss specifically what steps are expected, by when. The Kid Pointz program is great at tracking this so you can be consistent. Reviewing progress is a good way to stay on top of reinforcing positive change. It also shows you are taking interest in your child’s development and will potentially encourage them to do better.
  4. The meeting can be used to discuss the importance of specific rewards your child chooses. You can open up a discussion about material rewards verses non material rewards. Teaching them the importance difference between having and needing. Get them to look within to see what need a specific reward is filling.
  5. Use the family meetings as a time to inspire discussions revolving around character development, integrity, compassion, giving and contributions to family members and others. This is a perfect time to impart your morals and values as parents. Remember you are modeling behavior for your child. These meetings can provide an opportunity to demonstrate conflict management, problem solving skills, humor and honoring your word.
  6. It is a good idea to keep notes throughout the week to track ideas of what needs to be discussed at your next meeting. You could place a notepad in kitchen for everyone to write down an issue or need they want to address.
  7. Focus on the good. Don’t make the meeting a nag session by lecturing. This will discourage your kids and limit their participation. They need encouragement from their parents and your belief in them.
  8. Follow through with what you conclude in your meetings. If you decide to on a new way to do things in your home, implement it.
  9. Be sure to set rules for your family meetings. Have a structure put in place for how you will conduct them. Keep them short unless more time is needed. Take turns, don’t interrupt, limit each share or end on a good note.
  10. Foster teamwork by allowing each family member to take turns being a leader or having a specific role in the meetings.
  11. Keep the meetings fun. Get your kids involved by being creative. Elicit their interest to ensure they want to participate. Again, end on good note. Always express your love and appreciation for your kids and family. This will get kids/teens to see the buy in to family connection, because “family” feels good to be around. Provide a safe, loving place at home for your children to fuel up before they slay the dragons in their academic and social world.
  12. Finally it can help to play a game during your meeting. One our family loves to play is count your blessings. We each go around a state one thing we loved in the day, one thing we were grateful for and one difficult thing we could work on. This opens up dialogue for how we can support each other and what little things we find appreciation in. It also provides an opportunity for family members to feel heard and valued. Making time to be together in our busy and often chaotic world is invaluable. Meetings can inspire your children to realize the finer things in life can be the most powerful and are surely the most simple and important: being with family, giving/receiving love and development of our kid’s self esteem and positive self identity!