Good communication is the core of a strong family. One way to keep the communication flowing between family members is to hold regular family meetings.
Children from about age four and up can benefit from family meetings, and as they grow it will become part of their routine.
It is never too late to start holding meetings, but as with many things, it can be less challenging if established early on.
Getting started is the biggest step, but once it becomes a weekly habit, all family members can look forward to the meeting as a safe place to discuss their concerns and ideas. Just knowing you have everyone’s undivided attention can make it easier to get to the root of any issue that may arise.
Set aside a time for everyone to get together and discuss the idea of regular family meetings.
Keep it as light and fun as possible; no one will want to be involved if it looks too much like work.
Decide as a family what you want to accomplish from these meetings, and how you want them to function. By the end of the first family meeting, you should have a general idea of how to proceed.
Here are some suggestions to get started with your own family meetings:
l Pick a time that you know everyone is usually available so the meetings can be consistent from week to week.
l Post an agenda on the fridge or bulletin board where everyone can see. Older children can write down anything they want to discuss, and younger children can ask a parent to write for them. Everything on the agenda should be brought up at the meeting.
l Start each meeting on a positive note, by having everyone talk about something special they experienced in the past week, or by each person offering a compliment to someone else.
l In the beginning, a parent can "chair" the meetings to make sure things stay on track and all topics on the agenda are covered. A parent can also be responsible for writing down everyone’s suggestions and ideas. Once underway, school-aged children can take turns with these responsibilities as well.
l Discuss one topic from the agenda at a time, and give everyone a chance to voice his or her opinion. Write down all suggestions, and when everyone is finished brainstorming, go back through the list as a family and come to an agreement or compromise. Not all problems can be solved in one sitting, and may need to remain on the agenda for further discussion.
l End the meeting with a fun activity, like a game or a special snack.
As children grow, the content and atmosphere of the family meeting will go through some changes.
The basics remain the same, however, and your children will continue to build their communication and problem-solving skills while the whole family can enjoy spending time together.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 26, 2012