Let’s have a family meeting!

Whether formal or non-formal, families that check in regularly are stronger.

Family members need to feel that their opinions and points of view are valued. They need to pay attention to each other’s ideas, concerns and feelings. Scheduling and participating in regular family meetings, either formally or informally, gives each person a chance to share, solve problems and make decisions as a unit.

If your family would like to formally set up family meetings, Michigan State University Extension recommends the following suggestions to make meetings successful.

Choose a time and place to meet and try to hold the meetings on a regular basis. If you only meet when there is a problem, this can create a negative tone to the meetings. Family meetings are not only to solve problems but can be used to plan vacations, major family events or changes in schedules.

At each meeting select a chairperson to be responsible for keeping the agenda on track. This does not need to be an adult. This is a great opportunity for children to learn how to run a meeting. If you like to keep a record of the meeting discussion, select someone to take notes for future reference. Some families ask members to share topics they would like to discuss and post them on a board as an agenda.

Family members should feel free to express feelings, thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution, but they should also be reminded to be respectful. Another ground rule might be when someone is talking, everyone else is expected to listen and interruptions are not allowed. If someone wants to speak they should ask the chairperson for the floor.

It is the chairperson’s responsibility to make sure that all items the family wishes to discuss are covered in the meeting, as well as make sure that everyone is heard without interruption.

If there is a problem to resolve, everyone should have a chance to discuss it. Following are the five steps for problem solving:

  1. Define the problem from each person’s point of view respectfully. It is okay to disagree, but not to put-down someone.
  2. Brainstorm solutions. Write down everyone’s ideas. The chair should take on this role as the scribe.
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of each of the suggested solutions.
  4. Choose the solution(s) that makes the most sense to everyone.
  5. Agree to test the solutions for a specific period of time. Meet again to review whether or not the solutions are working.

Make sure the meeting is no longer than one hour, especially if young children are involved. Try to end on a cheerful note such as a joke, family hug or refreshments.

My family had informal meetings almost every night when we ate supper together. Eating together was an important family value for us and it was an awesome way to learn, discuss and troubleshoot on a regular basis. Whatever works for you!

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