What is a Family Meeting?
Family meetings are discussions that involve all family members who are concerned about or affected by a particular issue. Often the topic relates to a problem that the family is experiencing, although family meetings can also be used to plan time together or to try to prevent problems from occurring. These meetings provide a time that members can focus on being a family.
The Benefits/Purpose of Family Meetings
Because family meetings give everyone a voice, they build children’s self-esteem.The children are treated like values members of the family whose ideas are listened to and considered.
- Children learn that family members are interdependent, that they are all connected, and what each person does can have an effect on everyone else.
- The skills children learn in family meetings, such as compromise, openness to other’s ideas and cooperation, will help them to deal effectively with problems they encounter in other situations and social settings.
- By involvement in family decision-making and solving family problems, children see themselves as having responsibility for making a good family life. Because children are then more likely to identify with the family, the family becomes more cohesive and family closeness increases.
- By participating in family meetings, children learn to take the perspective of the whole group and to think of what is good for the family as a whole, not just themselves.
- Family meetings provide a platform for conflicts to be addressed and for problems to be resolved in a way that feels fair to everyone. You as the parent will set the limits of what is acceptable, but everyone has input. Children learn to examine situations, propose solutions, evaluate results with guidance, support and demonstrations from you and their older siblings. They begin to see themselves as capable of finding solutions to problems.
- Family meetings provide the opportunity for information to be shared equally with everyone.
Forms of Family Meetings
Family meetings can take the form of one-time events or they may be held on a more regular basis. If your family meets regularly, your role initially will be to provide nonjudgmental leadership. Over time you may decide to rotate leadership. Invite everyone in the family who is concerned about or affected by a particular issue to participate.
Setting a Positive Tone
Family meetings are most effective and enthusiastically received if they do not occur only to handle crises or to distribute jobs and discipline.Other purposes may be to:
- plan weekly schedules/calendars so everyone knows what each person will need to do and what commitments have been made.
- share information that will effect family members.
- have fun together.
- make family decisions about vacations, recreation or other activities.
To add to a constructive atmosphere, you can:
- include an opening activity that highlights positive family events or achievements or affirms individual family members. Example – best thing I did today, trait I like about myself, (or about someone else in family)
- establish ground rules, such as:
- No interruptions
- No put downs
- Respect each other's opinions
- Everyone has a chance to contribute