24Jan

Hear Ye, Hear Ye; It’s Family Meeting Time!

Parenting is, equally, one of the hardest and most gratifying jobs that exists.  It is full of curve balls, fast balls, foul balls, and strike outs that leave you feeling less than equipped, and far from celebratory.  Occasionally though, you find yourself cheering silently to yourself for accomplishing what feels like a parenting home run, which comes from negotiating life’s little complexities with kindness, fervor, and absolute clarity of purpose!  Those moments are sweet victories that help restore us to our ideal; an authoritative guru who can guide our family through rocky times and instill that inner compass for them to use, themselves, when in doubt.  Because that’s what we are really aiming for, isn’t it? 

More than anything, we want our children and spouses to experience a sense of self-trust and confidence in their abilities to work things out with greater humor, poise and compassion.  At the core of all the details of a family’s stories is a deep bond of connection, which can intentionally be strengthened through making the time to regularly come together and communicate needs, concerns, differences, and similarities.  It is not always easy to address the symptoms of daily struggles, while caught in the middle of them!  Therefore, it becomes paramount to discuss these things at a time when there is a general feeling of motivation and common purpose. This can be accomplished by holding a family meeting, where all of the family members feel heard and included in the presentation and solution of issues.

More than anything, we want our children and spouses to experience a sense of self-trust and confidence in their abilities to work things out with greater humor, poise and compassion.  At the core of all the details of a family’s stories is a deep bond of connection, which can intentionally be strengthened through making the time to regularly come together and communicate needs, concerns, differences, and similarities.  It is not always easy to address the symptoms of daily struggles, while caught in the middle of them!  Therefore, it becomes paramount to discuss these things at a time when there is a general feeling of motivation and common purpose. This can be accomplished by holding a family meeting, where all of the family members feel heard and included in the presentation and solution of issues.

1.  Calendar it!

It is helpful to schedule a family meeting the same way you would any important appointment or event.  Make sure that you pick a day and time that is convenient for everyone and stick to it.  Decide on a time when everyone is rested and engaged to the best of their abilities.  That means it may not be wise to schedule a meeting right before bedtime or prior to dinner, lest you want to deal with short, fussy fuses or empty belly audacities. Set your family up for success by being considerate of some of the limits of behavior and mood that accompany these more inopportune times of the day.

2.  The Talking Stick.

Like any productive meeting, there are bound to be many voices that want to be heard.  One good way to reduce interruptions is to select an item that will represent the “talking stick.”  Explain that if someone wants to share at the meeting, he or she needs to, first, be holding this item.  This will also help your family to strengthen their ability to listen carefully without immediately responding, which helps to reduce impulsivity and increase empathy towards others.

3.  Be prepared. 

It’s a good idea to ask all family members to think about what they might want to discuss at the meeting a few days before the meeting.  This will inspire everyone in the family to take greater initiative in contributing to the groups’ purpose and, ideally, get them to express some of the thoughts that are important to them individually.   

4.  Practice healthy communication.

This is the perfect opportunity to model effective communication and to help all family members improve their communication by using “I statements”, active listening skills, and assertiveness.  Encourage everyone to share issues that they would like the family to focus on by using language that is focused on “I feel” or “I think” rather than statements that emphasize “you.”  Here is one example of this: “I feel rushed when you can’t find where your shoes are in the morning and we end up running late.  I’d really like for us to come up with a solution that will help us to have a more relaxing and easy morning,” rather than, “You’re always misplacing your shoes and it ends up making us late.  I wish you’d be more organized!” 

Also, practicing active listening is a great exercise to take part in to enhance connection among all family members.  After each family member shares, be willing to show them that you have heard them by repeating what you heard them say and asking them if you heard them correctly.  Also, it is good to ask them if they would like to expand on their thoughts at all.  This opens up such a greater degree of sharing and self-expression, which is important for younger members to experience and replicate in their  lives outside of the family.  If you are able to encourage this type of communication during the meeting, your family will likely begin using it at other key times, as well, to work through conflicts, challenges, and to forge healthy relationships in general.

5.  Short and simple.

It is helpful to facilitate a family discussion for only 5- 15 minutes per meeting, at first, until the structure and momentum of the meetings get a little more natural.  In order to involve everyone equally, without everyone getting overwhelmed or overstimulated, it can be useful to narrow the meeting down to just one or two topics.  If something is important for the family to discuss, and there doesn’t seem to be enough time or focus to discuss it in detail, simply jot it down as the first topic of the next meeting. 

6.  Record the minutes.

Ask somebody to take on the role of secretary and document the issues that are covered on a piece of paper, or a white erase board, that can be displayed in the home over the course of the next week.  This will help family members remember the key notes that were covered and to keep some of the ideas pertaining to the meeting fresh in their minds. 

7.  Accentuate the positive.

It is of the utmost importance to guide the meeting in a positive direction.  If someone shares an idea, or offers feedback, show respect and value for his or her contribution by thanking them for the input, and expressing how that helps you to understand something about the family dynamic better.  It doesn’t help to talk down to any of the members who are sharing or to minimize anyone’s viewpoint.  Instead, make sure that everyone knows that all communication exists on a platform of respect and love.  This will strengthen a foundation of support and teamwork amongst all of the members of the family.

If you think that you would benefit from having a supportive Orlando counselor on your side to help you and your family members develop greater habits of communication and strengthen your overall feeling of togetherness, please contact our professional mental health counselors at Life Enhancement Counseling Services by calling (407) 443-8862 to schedule an appointment.

Resources:

                                                                                               

“The Secrets of Happy Families:  Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More”

By Bruce Feiler

10 Tips for Holding a Family Meeting

By Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-fitness/201209/10-tips-holding-family-meeting

Family Meetings

By Dr. Jane Nelson

https://www.positivediscipline.com/artciles/family-meetings 00000000

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie Spain