Setting Up Family Meetings
It’s been a long day, and you’re finally sitting down to dinner with your family, but your mind is elsewhere. It happens to all of us. Trying to balance quality family time with work obligations, playdates, soccer games, personal goals, home upkeep, and relationship maintenance is challenging. Scheduling a weekly meeting can be a powerful way for your family to stay connected in a chaotic world. Here are some tips to make the most of family meeting time!
Meet Every Week
Regularly scheduled time together builds trust and signals the importance of family connection. It could be Wednesday mornings, when there’s a random break in everyone’s schedule, or an hour-long Friday afternoon living room summit, after the bulk of the week’s activities have happened. Or Sunday evening dinner, when you can coordinate logistics for the coming week’s calendar of events. Consider the most realistic time for all family members to meet. You may have to postpone or reschedule once or twice before you figure out what works best, but when everyone gets used to including it in their plans, the right time will eventually become apparent.
Build a Structure
Family meetings are a platform for everyone to honestly express thoughts, concerns, and feelings. It’s also a time to address topics that matter to the whole family. How it happens depends on everyone involved. In the beginning, especially with younger children, plan on ten to fifteen minutes to set clear expectations and answer questions.
Who guides the discussion?
Will someone be keeping time or taking notes?
Should we use a “talking stick” for one family member to claim everyone’s attention?
How do we make sure everyone’s opinion has been heard on each subject before we make a decision or move on?
Even if your time together is informal, establish agreements like turning off devices to minimize distractions.
Rotate the Role of Facilitator
Parents or older children can guide meetings in the beginning, while younger ones observe and learn. Giving every family member the opportunity to facilitate signals that everyone has an equal voice in family matters. Children develop leadership skills when they are responsible for keeping everyone on task and maintaining established agreements. And we all learn empathy when we support each other in processing issues.
Plan an Agenda
Develop an agenda, even if it is fairly loose. An organic flow of conversation might mean more time is spent on one item rather than others, and that’s okay.
Start each meeting with celebrations and appreciations to begin connection time on a positive note. Acknowledge kind acts, learning milestones, finished projects, and progress made towards goals.
Make space for everyone to raise issues, then brainstorm solutions as a team. You may collectively determine that a one-on-one conversation is more appropriate than a group discussion for some topics. Or you may decide together that a subject requires more individual thought and should be postponed until the next meeting. Just remember to include those items in next week’s agenda!
Ask each person to share what is coming up in the next week so everyone knows what to expect and can anticipate how they can support other family members. You never know if someone else’s plans might change how you tackle the week!
End the meeting with an interactive family activity! Play a game, enjoy a treat, or go for a short walk together.
The goal of family meetings is to keep the lines of communication open, despite busy schedules. Prioritizing regular time together to reflect on past events, collaborate as a team, and plan for the future allows everyone to feel supported as they navigate their own paths. When you feel connected to your loved ones, you can release concerns that you missed out on what is happening in their lives. And you can look forward to connecting again next week!