- Wouldn’t it be nice to find a safe refuge from all of the troubles, calamities, and storms that society throws at us?
- Wouldn’t you love to find someplace close by where you could retreat to and escape the pressures and stresses of modern culture?
- Wouldn’t you love to be surrounded by friends and loved ones who genuinely want you to succeed and find joy in life?
Fortunately, this refuge exists for billions of people all across the planet. And they don’t have to leave the privacy of their own homes to find it. In fact, the refuge is their own home and the family members within it.
If your home isn’t a place you want to retreat to in times of stress and conflict, then perhaps this article will help you establish a new tradition that can transform your home into a bit of heaven, and your family into your closest friends and allies.
What’s the new tradition? Weekly family meetings.
A Few Sobering Statistics
The statistics about family communication are pretty bleak. According to Positive Parenting.com, the average American child communicates with his or her parents for a mere 12½ minutes each day. The report goes on to state that, on average, the ratio of negative to positive comments is 400 to 32 (daily).
One of the major objectives of parents and families is in self-esteem building. Children who feel valued by their families (parents, siblings, extended family) typically have a higher sense of self. However, when that task is placed next to the statistics, it seems that families could use some concrete tools and a plan of action for building the connections that lead all family members to feeling valued.
Family meetings can take many forms and have a wide variety of purposes. The format can (and should) depend on the make-up of your family and their preferences. They can be informal events with take-out food. They can be quick meetings for specific purposes. They can even change from one week to the next based on the needs of the family. No matter the purpose, the goal remains the same: build stronger families by demonstrating the value of each member.
In order for family meetings to be successful, everyone must be involved. Parents usually provide the catalyst for meetings to begin. In fact, parental support or buy-in is extremely important to success. Once the family gets used to the pattern of events, children can begin to help facilitate the meetings. In any case, the rule of thumb is everyone listens and everyone is heard!
The rules of each meeting should be tailored to the needs of your family, but there are some basic premises that need to be understood by all:
- Family meetings need to rank high on the priority list (as important as any other business meeting or extracurricular event). Schedule a specific night and time for the meeting. Select a day and time that is typically free of business and extracurricular events. You may have to change the date on a quarterly basis, but try to keep the date and time as consistent as possible.
- The purpose of the meeting is for everyone to keep in touch with what’s going on with all members of the family. This means that everyone should bring something to the table (an event, suggestion, issue, etc.) and that everyone will be expected to respect others by listening without criticism. Keep a list on the refrigerator for family members to list points of discussion for the meeting. Doing this allows everyone to know what needs to be discussed. It will also help keep the meeting focused.
- If a topic is introduced, it is important. Members should not change the topic until everyone has had a chance to speak. Once a topic is introduced, it may be helpful for each family member to respond in a “round-the-table” manner. Once each person has spoken, each family member can request to speak again. In this way, each member has a chance for input without worry that one member will monopolize the entire conversation.
- The rules and content of each meeting need to reflect the values of each family member. The Gold members of your household may want an organized, succinct meeting, but your Orange members will find that boring and repressive. Your Blue members will want to talk everything out, while your Green members will find that taxing. Alternate the events and content of your meetings. Perhaps put the formal, talk-it-out issues on the table first and move to the lighthearted playful issues later or vice-versa. This also gives all temperaments a chance to practice “doing” other colors in an atmosphere of support and encouragement!
The content of the meeting will be as unique as your family. One week, you might meet to discuss an upcoming schedule that is uncharacteristically frenetic. The next, the goal might be to determine the best ways to solve a nagging problem or to plan a night out with the whole family. Your meetings can be anything that they need to be, thus their content and length will vary. The one thing they should not be is a chore. Be sure to balance issues with fun — you are striving for positive interactions!
The purpose of a family meeting is to connect as a family. Many times, that means getting scheduling under control or problem solving a family issue. However, your meetings needn’t all revolve around those topics. There are many other sources of connection! Consider these opportunities for connection during your family meeting:
- Allow a family member to decide where the family will go and what they will do for one meeting. They may decide to take everyone to a favorite restaurant, a movie, putt-putt golfing, make a pizza at home night, etc.
- Introduce the “Family Word” for the week. Spend some time exploring that word using word association, art materials, and the like. Words that deal with ethics and values are great for this such as accountability, expectation, forgiveness, motivation, responsibility, etc.
- Take the whole family to the grocery store or mall for some shopping (or work together on some other household task). It will build an understanding of teamwork, money, budgeting, etc.
- Introduce a craft that the whole family can work on together. You may want to consider one where each person must contribute to ensure the success of the whole.
- Learn a new skill together, such as photography, website design, or baking.
The Bottom Line
In order to build and maintain positive connections it is important to communicate effectively and often. Rather than attempting to sneak in quality communication with the members of our family, we can schedule time that indicates in word and deed that family is important.