Growing up, I hung out at my best friend Mary’s house a lot, and, every once in a while, Mary’s mom would tell me it was time for their family conference and that I was going to need to leave. As my two feet carried me home, I thought about how their family ritual seemed strange. My parents didn’t do this sort of thing in our home, so why would my friend’s family need to have meetings when we didn’t?
As I aged, I began to appreciate the fact that Mary’s family set aside sacred time for them and them alone. Her Mom wasn’t worried about catering to me or anyone else that she had to send away to protect their family time. They had an intentional system to connect, and I carried that idea forward into my family today.
WHY SHOULD PARENTS CREATE A HABIT OF HOLDING FAMILY MEETINGS?
Because families today are going in all directions. Holding mindful family meetings is a way to slow down and purposely connect with your family members regularly. These meetings are a relaxed way for everyone to gather and communicate together.
Family meetings are a time to get honest about the strengths and weaknesses of your family and to talk about how things are going within your family unit and individually. Family meetings are meant to be fun and promote a sense of belonging.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU HOLD FAMILY MEETINGS?
Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly?
Decide what works for your family according to your current schedule. If you have younger kids, it will be easier to meet up around the family table for weekly meetings. As kids get older, this becomes more difficult, although just as important.
Adriane Thompson of Raising Kids With Purpose says she and her husband, along with their three sons ages 9, 6, and 1, meet on Sunday evenings, and “the meetings are usually a mix of screaming, running around, dancing, and cheering with a dash of order.” She says that even with the chaos, something amazing happens:
- Our kids have input on decisions that impact them.
- Problems or challenges get addressed in a judgment-free zone.
- Our family values are highlighted and reiterated.
- We find out if something is going on with someone that didn’t come up during the week.
- Everyone feels like they are part of something bigger than themselves and that they have others cheering them on.
- Chores and family contributions are assigned.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOUR FAMILY MEETING LAST?
Adriane says they keep their weekly family meeting to 15 minutes. “When we first started having meetings, we would all say something nice about each person in our family. Then once all the compliments were finished, that person would get to dance around the house hearing us chant their name. My toddler loved this part. But what ended up happening was the meeting got dragged out making it too long to keep attention,” she said.
WHERE SHOULD YOU HOLD YOUR FAMILY MEETINGS?
I want our “formal” dining room table to be a place where we regularly gather for connective tech-free time together, so this is where we hold our meetings.
The Thompsons prefer to switch up where they meet, and Adriane says, “You may even want to consider changing it up once a month and doing it at a park, a froyo place, Chick-fil-A or somewhere where the kids can have fun afterward.”
FIGURE OUT YOUR PURPOSE
Claim what it is you want to accomplish through holding your family meetings.
“The goal of a Family Meeting should be to open communication between everyone in the family. Allowing our kids to have a voice gives them autonomy, but also in this type of environment they can get a lot of guidance and know who is ultimately in charge,” says Adriane.
SET THE MOOD
Purposely set the mood and tone of the room to match how you want your family meeting to feel. Do you want it to be fun and upbeat, or do you want it to be serene and serious? Our family meetings always include a dessert, and I light candles so that the space feels calm and inviting.
Adriane agrees to include a special treat for the kids to enjoy during the meeting. “This can be anything from popcorn, special smoothies, muffins to frozen yogurt. Our kids aren’t used to getting a lot of sweet treats, so a family meeting is a perfect time to let them indulge a little,” she says.
END THE MEETING WITH A FUN RITUAL OR FAMILY EVENT
When you have younger kids, you can add an element of fun to the very end of the meeting, such as a dance party or something silly.
For those with older kids, Audrey Monke, Mother of 5 and Writer at Sunshine Parenting says, “Playing a board game or watching your favorite TV show together could be a reward for having the meeting.”
PLAN YOUR AGENDA
Both Adriane and I, have Family Meeting Agendas that we print out and use for our family meetings, while Audrey says, “You don’t have to get fancy with your agenda. We keep ours on a legal pad, and we take turns being the “chair” of the meeting. Leading the session is good communication practice for kids.”
HERE’S WHAT TO INCLUDE ON YOUR AGENDA
- What’s working well in your family, and what’s not working so well?
- What changes do we need to make and what do we want to keep the same?
- Talk about a value or life skill you want to strengthen.
- Discuss how well you are serving and loving other people.
- Coordinate the Family Calendar.
- Discuss any needs for school or work projects, so you get out of the habit of running out last minute for that poster board!
- Do you want to pay allowance or any other rewards?
HOW TO KICK OFF THE MEETING
Start By Saying Something Nice
We used to start our family meetings by turning to the person next to us and saying something we loved about them. Complimenting one another no longer flies with teenagers, but that practice certainly made for some sweet memories and strengthened our bonds.
Use Conversation Starters
Our family loves using Conversation Starter products around the table. Our favorites are Togather or Food With Thought. These questions always seem to lighten the mood of the meeting, and we gain better insight into who one another is.
Say Highs and Lows
You can also begin with Highs and Lows, where everyone thinks of something positive and something not so positive that recently happened to them.
OTHER GREAT IDEAS TO INCLUDE
Word of the Week
Adriane says her family picks a word from a “words to make you sound smarter” list or “words to study for the SAT,” and they discuss the meaning as well as try to use it throughout the week. I love this idea!
Take the time during meetings to plan your weekly dinner menu or to plan for school lunches. Get the whole family involved in what they want to eat for the week and decide who is going to help shop and make the meals too!
No matter if we are raising toddlers or teenagers, we must take the time and make an effort to connect with them regularly. Family meetings tell our kids that they matter. That our family matters. That our thoughts and actions matter.
Setting aside this sacred time for your family, whether it be weekly, monthly or quarterly, is a perfect way to let your kids know you care about them and the overall health of your entire family.
What do you think is important to include in family meetings?