“No not another family meeting!” If you’ve had this kind of reaction to calling a family meeting; join the crowd. But family meetings don’t have to be something your kids dread. Here are some secrets we’ve learned about making these gatherings something our kids actually like attending.
We had texted them the night and time for our family meeting. They knew we expected them there unless we heard otherwise. And lest you think our kids always loved attending these; we often have had not so happy hearts when they receive that text.
We’ve worked hard to change this environment from one of dread and boredom to one of excitement and anticipation. We failed early on by using this time to hammer away at our kids about chores not getting done and unbecoming behavior. We realized the errors of our ways and began to think how we could be more enticing with our time together. Here are several things that helped us:
1. Begin by asking a state of the family question, “How are we doing as a family?” The key is for parents to zip their lips and LISTEN. It is often fascinating and surprising to hear how your kids see the family. If you need prompts here are a few: How are we doing-with each other, our chores, Jesus, walking in the light, school, technology, friends, money.
2. After listening, the next step is to get clear with each other. Often we need to ask forgiveness for things we haven’t done so well. We ask if there are ways we are exasperating them. (They always have input!!)This sets the stage for others to confess and get clear. It’s hard to sit in a family meeting with unresolved conflict!
3. Next – CELEBRATE!! Sometimes we have a treat ready for this part… anything little or big merits celebration!!
4. Then ask for thoughts on how to solve problems. Sometimes these are from step #1. Other times it can be things parents want input on, for instance, how can we be better about getting clean clothes put away?
5. Another important part of our meeting is the calendar. We try hard to not surprise our kids with events we would love them to attend with us. Also we talk about logistics if we need to be gone like who will do what.
6. We talk about any big changes, crisis or trauma. We discuss how our family wants to respond. We often give our kids the exact wording to use so they feel prepared and not caught off guard.
7. The last step is, we pray for our family. We ask God to help us walk in the light; to keep clear with each other and speak the truth in love.
Some helpful nuggets:
- Young children (under school age) get to come for the celebrating and the food. Then we let them go play unless they want to stay and listen quietly.
- When our kids were young, we could call impromptu meetings. As they got older they really appreciated 24-48 hour notice.
- Occasionally we would go to Starbucks or McDonalds to have our meeting.
- When someone seemed frustrated with something or someone, we would encourage them to bring that up at the family meeting
- We have called emergency meetings when we needed to talk to everyone.
- We used to meet more often. Now that our kids are grown, we meet about 2x a month.