As a kid, my family held regular monthly family meetings.
We ran for office (yes, we did) and voted each other into various positions every year.
Each meeting we had to pay dues when we came to each meeting and if our dues were late, yup, there was a small fine to pay. We are talking 25 cents for dues and a nickel for a late fee (this was the 80’s after all).
We said the Pledge of Allegiance to a tiny American flag.
The family secretary took notes in our Family Meeting Binder and recorded the meetings on a good ol’ fashioned tape player.
We put our ideas together.
We saved money as a family to for things we were passionate about as a family: trips, family purchases, etc.
Some of you might be thinking, “What? Is this chic crazy?”
Family meetings helped create a cohesive unit. Everything we did in my family was a TEAM effort.
We went on field trips.
Sometimes we went to the grocery store to learn how to work within a budget and buy a meal with only $5 a person.
Or occasionally, we’d skip a day of school to head to Knott’s Berry Farm. Field trips were the best!
I know this may sound unusual to many, and might even seem a little over the top, but I wouldn’t change one bit of it for anything.
I liked being able to bring ideas to our family table and have my voice heard. Oftentimes, we learned things about each other that we had no idea was happening in their lives. When people are given a safe space to communicate, it’s amazing what starts to transpire.
Family meetings bond a family together. They unify.
They create a space to talk about light hearted topics as well as difficult ones. Our family meetings were a place that we knew everyone would be together at one time with no interruptions, no TV, no phones, just our family.
Family meetings, are important to building a cohesive family unit where parents are the leaders teaching their children meaningful ways to contribute to the household. Children develop important life skills and a sense of value when their voices are heard within the family unit. The use of family meetings helps develop deeper connections, helps families compromise, respectfully find solutions to problems and get important things accomplished.
We had an agenda for every meeting. If we had something on our minds throughout the month, we could add items to the next meeting’s agenda on a white board stuck to the side of the refrigerator.
I can remember making posters for the upcoming meetings and taping them around my house so that everyone would remember to be there on time!
Knowing who I am today, organized and orderly is me to a fault. What’s funny here is that making these posters gave me a job; it gave me purpose. I felt that I was playing an important role by holding everyone in my family, including myself, accountable for something.
Family meetings aren’t always the most popular thing, especially with hormonal teenagers, but they are important in developing a family environment where respectful communication is valued and each person’s point of view is heard.
As parents, we aren’t always cool. Heck, I didn’t always think my parents were super cool back then either. But I did know that they valued me and my ideas and provided a meaningful way for me to contribute to our family.
Here are our tips if you’d like to start having family meetings in your home:
Pick a date and time that works for everyone.
You want to make sure that attendance is a priority. You also want to pick a time that makes sense for everyone’s busy schedule. Right after dinner is always a great time.
Create an agenda.
This will help the family have talking points and give every member of the family an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Maybe you have a question to open the conversation or need to plan the next family outing, having an agenda will help the meeting run smoothly.
Keep the meetings short 15-20 minutes.
Let’s be honest, after 30 minutes the attention span of kiddos AND adults starts to get off track.
Make everyone feel valued.
For our family, having specific roles helped to create buy-in and interest for everyone. Have a talking stick so that nobody interrupts, allow each person to contribute to the conversation, and make sure that some of the agenda items are child-centered.
End the meeting with a secret handshake, a dessert or a fun activity like board games. The more you have fun as a family by having light hearted meetings and positive conversations, the easier it will be to successfully have the tougher conversations when that time comes.
You see, there were days when the other kids in the neighborhood were outside waiting for us to come back outside and play while we were having family meetings. I had to sit out of a few games of street tag, but those were few and far between. However, what I remember and value about my childhood is the deep connection I had with my family and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I am so grateful that my parents held these meetings with us as kids. We have taken skills that we learned as a result of those meetings and applied them to our lives. I know times have changed and our meetings won’t look exactly like my family’s did in 1985. With a little creativity and small adjustments, we will find a format that works for our little family of 4!
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