While not an original concept, a family meeting can take on new meaning during COVID-19 when family members are sharing spaces and trying to work and spend leisure time at home. Patience can be in short supply when families have concerns about health, money, lack of childcare, and limited resources.
Family meetings can be useful to plan events and to hash out new roles, rules and problems that exist between family members. For the most part, a family meeting is a good place to be vulnerable with each other and to let your feelings, thoughts, and needs be heard by other members in a safe atmosphere. As long as feelings are stated in a non-blameful way, solutions can be reached through compromise and good listening skills discussed under “8 Rules of Family Meetings” below.
The immense effort it can take to get all family members together is one space is worthwhile in most cases. But by no stretch of the imagination are these meetings easy or without conflict. The most important aspects of the family meeting are structure, flexibility, active listening, and having a recorder to write all your findings down.
Here are 4 Tips for Setting Up Family Meetings:
- All members need to have choices regarding the day and time of the meeting. It’s important to try not to leave anyone out, meet on a regular basis, and set a time limit.
- Family members are advised to write down complaints, suggestions, or grievances on a slip and put them in a box. A meeting can be held when there are several slips in the box or about once a week.
- It is a good idea to request a different volunteer at each meeting to be a scribe and to keep these notes in an agreed upon location in your home.
- Any family member can request a family meeting with at least one days’ notice given to other members.
8 Rules of Family Meetings:
- Practice tolerance and fairness. The thoughts and feelings of all family members count equally regardless of age or status.
- All family members turn off electronic devices during meetings unless someone is on call or has an elderly relative.
- Ask a volunteer to write down the agenda for the next meeting and to post it in a prominent place in your home.
- Feelings are accepted and validated and not judged to be right or wrong, reasonable or unreasonable.
- No accusations and name-calling are allowed at meetings. The best way to avoid this is to use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. For instance, if you are feeling upset because your kids leave their dishes in the sink, it’s more effective to say, “I would appreciate it if you’d put your dishes in the dishwasher,” rather than “You kids are slobs and never clean up after yourself.”
- The problem-solving stage comes next, and this is the time for compromise after brainstorming solutions. The adults need to take the lead here because they have more experience. However, children often come up with creative solutions and feel empowered when they can share them without criticism. Once a solution has been accepted by most family members, write it down and post it in a location in our home for all to view.
- Take a Break if anyone feels flooded. If there’s a lot of conflict between family members, it’s a good idea to take a twenty-minute break or schedule a smaller meeting for members when family members can more easily feel validated and work towards a compromise. But don’t let more than twenty-four hours go by until you meet again.
- End family meetings on a positive note. Be sure to conclude meetings with positive feedback and encouragement so that family members will feel okay or even good about coming to meetings again.
Keep in mind that the focus of a family meeting is to address how the family is doing as a whole, rather than individual grievances. Be sure that everyone has a chance to speak and be heard. All family members are advised to validate the feelings of other members and to show respect during meetings. Playing a game of cards or a board game at the conclusion of the meeting can help to encourage bonding, good communication, and more good times during family meetings!
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry