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Tips for Holding A Successful Family Meeting

April 8th, 2018 by Ed Thorney

Family meetings are the single most effective way to develop positive relationships within your family.

Why is this? It is because, we all have a fundamental need to be heard and understood. This develops our capacity for empathy – the key to emotional intelligence.

A family meeting is a formal time to talk about what is important, and not just when a crisis occurs. They typical family meeting should revolve around the family’s needs: schedules for the week, planning fun activities, recognizing what is going well, acknowledging difficulties, and listening to ways to improve.

Considering the fast-paced and hectic lives that many families lead, the benefits of being more intentional about finding times to connect becomes evident.

There are some basic rules for making your family meeting a success: 

  • Make it enjoyable.  Have a snack as part of the routine.
  • One person speaks at a time – some families use a “talking stick” 
  • No interruptions 
  • No electronics
  • No put downs
  • Everyone has a chance to contribute
  • Everyone is listened to equally 

It is important to hold yourselves accountable to these ground rules. This will show respect for a structure that guarantees everyone is listened to.

If you have never held family meetings in the past, introducing them at a time when you are not trying to address a problem will be easier; everyone will be more relaxed and your children will be likely to be more enthusiastic about participating. 

Why you should practice family meetings often:

Peaceful approach to communication.

RESPECT is the objective!  People feel respected even if there is disagreement.  Agreeing with one another is actually secondary to feeling respected by being listened to.  Agreement follows respect!

Family meetings are a great way for weekly planning of logistics, schedules and simple acknowledgment of recent events.

If something went right – celebrate it or simply say, “thank you”.  Sometimes a short simple thank you is more authentic than a long one – same as for adults. 

If some interaction was difficult recently – this is a good time to reflect on the difficulty and ask for ways to improve it.  Involving the children in the problem solving process is excellent training and shows respect for their perspective.  People do not argue with their own data – so asking everyone for their input helps to guarantee buy-into agreements.

Allow the formality of listening without interruption to become a standard.  Everyone loves to be listened to.    

Meetings allow the family to become a unit that has a common mission for a while.  The mission is to plan for the week, to listen to concerns and successes – to celebrate the family as special and productive.

When you adhere to the basic rules and address the issues that need to be addressed – you are demonstrating good leadership!  

Family meetings share the power.  It evens the playing field and removes the us against themmentality. Once you have practiced this format for family meetings, and rules are established, family members can rotate through the role of “running” the meeting. 

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