The Magic of Family Meetings

We have work meetings, book club meetings, non-profit organization meetings, and yet very few families have family meetings.  However, in my parenting coaching, and especially with families of children ages 3-17, family meetings are one of the best ways I’ve found to help families get on the same page, air their dirty laundry, establish rules and expectations, and move from tension back to joy and playfulness.

But there are some definite dos and don’ts when it comes to creating a family meeting that works well and is sustainable.  Here are my tips for family meetings that will help you re-connect and get down to business.

1)     Keep it short- The younger your children are, the shorter your meeting should be.  For children under 5, try to keep it to 20 minutes tops.  As your children grow and mature, meetings will get slightly longer, but nobody wants to sit in a meeting for longer than an hour, so try to prioritize and keep your commentary to a minimum.

2)    The fun sandwich- If you want your kids to love family meetings, then be sure there’s something they really like at the beginning and at the end.  You could do a round of appreciations at the beginning and pizza and a movie afterward, or you might try an empathy game at the beginning and a game of basketball at the end.  Or, perhaps you’ll start with a group hug and end by planning the next family vacation.

3)    Grievances, chores, and other business in the middle- keep this part short too, but this is the meat of the family meeting where you’ll really make progress toward a mutual understanding of what your family’s rules, chores, and goals are.  Sometimes it helps to have a poster board, white board, or other visual representation of what you’re discussing.

4)   Play “Yes, And”- If you’d like the input of every family member as you create a new chore structure, plan a vacation, or figure out how to work some fun into your busy lives, try playing “Yes, And” It’s a simple game in which you first set up the task and then take turns making contributions.  The rule is that you cannot argue against anyone’s contribution, you can only add your own by enthusiastically saying, “YES!  And…”  So you might start by saying something like, “Let’s imagine the best Saturday afternoon ever” and then each person takes a turn sharing something they’d enjoy doing on an imaginary Saturday.  The idea is to get excited, use your imagination and practice being a yes to one another’s ideas.  Then, after the game, you can agree on an actual plan for the day.

5)    Chore wheel- A chore wheel is a fun way to establish who will do what and then you can easily trade chores every week or month.  It does take a little bit of preparation before the meeting, but you’ll be amazed how something as simple as an engaging and visual reminder will help the young people in your life complete their chores on time.

So, those are my tips for a successful and sustainable family meeting.  I would love to hear about your experiences with meetings in the past and/or how these tips work for you.

Have a fabulous week, Shelly