We actually tried to start holding family meetings in the fall. But they were met with so much kickback from the children that I decided to wait (and do some research on family meetings which led to more research). We talked about the idea of family meetings over the last few months, so they were still on our radars and everyone in the family knew they would come back at some point. So, I resolved to make them happen in the New Year (anyone who has read my previous post might see a pattern here, but I am not usually a "New Years resolver").
My mistake in starting our last meetings was that I foolishly thought that they would just come together nicely and neatly and we would have wonderful family problem solving and feeling sharing opportunities (sugar plum and gumdrop fantasy, I know). I was more focused on the product than the process.
Now I realize that these meetings with my husband and (almost) 6 and 4 year old are merely laying the groundwork to create a family atmosphere in which we all feel secure enough to talk things out and share problems and feelings in the future. Because I think if I don't create that now, then my future 14 year old sure won't feel comfortable to come to me on her own.
So our first meeting was really brief, about 10 minutes, to get together to sing a fun song and set out some guidelines with the family. We needed to decide when and where to have the meetings, how we should start them and who would be in charge of what tasks.
I knew that to make these meetings work I would have to get the kids invested in the idea by having fun and giving them some responsibilities:
1. After modeling what a typical agenda might look like, my daughter took the job of creating one for each week and posting it on the refrigerator. Throughout the week we jot down any agenda items that might come to mind, like sharing an idea with the whole family or how to solve a problem that the siblings are having. At the beginning of each meeting, Bean grabs the agenda and brings it over.
|Family Meeting Notebook|
3. We decided that a song to open every meeting would be a good idea (we picked the hokey pokey and everyone gets to pick a body part to "shake all about", you probably can guess what my 4 year old son chooses!). It's like an ice breaker and gets everyone on the same page.
4. Sharing Time or Announcements is when we share ideas, things that happened over the week, or items that the children created. Everyone gets a turn and there are no rules except to be respectful to the speaker.
This is also when we might play Roses and Thorns; each family member gets to share a "rose" (good thing that has happened) and/or a "thorn" (not so good thing). We've found that everyone enjoys knowing that they will be heard and their feelings validated at this time. Not that it doesn't happen at other times during the week, but having a dedicated time has been so valuable.
5. Business is the down and dirty problem solving time. Honestly, we haven't had much of this so far and it is okay. I know that we are setting the framework now for when we need to have the big "business" discussions. For now I have been using this time for games and activities that are team building and fun.
6. Treats!! The closing of the Family Meeting is always a treat, whether it is a cookie or fruit with whipped cream or a bit of ice cream, it is something the children look forward to. And I'd be hard pressed to find a better way to continue great family bonding than over a glass of milk and a cookie!
Our Family Meetings are a work in progress, as they should be. They help give us time to bond and really enjoy one another in the middle of our busy schedules. I'm so glad we started them and I hope you might think about it too.
Health and Happiness,
My Early Childhood Education background helped me make these meetings work for my young children. It can be challenging finding ways to involve children this young (and younger!) but I encourage you to try.
Just setting the precedent for these meetings to happen in your life will help your child understand that you are making family a priority in your life. While I'm not an expert, I do feel strongly about how strong families make for strong children.
If you have any questions, I'd love to help if I can.