By Christina Lorella
Back-to-school time has arrived and our schedules are beginning to slowly fall into place. As everyone settles into their new routines, many families are taking advantage of the opportunity to add weekly household meetings to their schedules. While some may be hesitant about adding an additional task to their already busy agendas, the benefits of weekly family meetings will have a lifetime of positive effects on your children and your family dynamic as a whole.
First, having a weekly family meeting creates a sense of connection within the home. Not only does it provide a place for bonds to be made, but it also allows a space for each member of the family to feel valued and important. Every member of the family is given a voice, a chance to speak his or her mind. It is in this space that family rules should be established; allowing each person to express their viewpoints about what makes a house a home.
Those of you who have taken courses on the “Love and Logic” strategy know that giving a child responsibility within the home makes him or her feel needed and as if their contribution matters. Use your first meeting (or first meeting of the season) to not only create or update family rules, but also to develop a family responsibility chart. Take time before the meeting to brainstorm areas in which each child thrives and assign tasks accordingly, allowing them the opportunity to speak their minds. Do not forget to add your long list of responsibilities, too. Giving your kids a visual of what you do as parents from day-to-day helps children to recognize and appreciate your efforts. What a great way to develop a sense of responsibility in your children, while also making them feel as if their role in the family is significant!
Problem-solving together, as a unit, is by far one of the most beneficial aspects of these gatherings. By using the time to discuss the difficulties each member is facing and to brainstorm ideas, these meetings teach problem-solving skills, teamwork, collaboration, and conflict resolution. Perhaps more importantly, these discussions will teach children that they have a consistent support network of people who care and who are willing to help them as they tackle the many obstacles that life throws at them.
Sharing family problems also validates the importance of our individual issues, as we all are affected differently by different circumstances. What may seem like a small deal to one person, may in fact be very hard on another. Think, for example, about families with large sibling age gaps or with children with special needs. Our minds are all different and process the world around us in unique ways. By using talking about problems as a group, children become aware of how certain things affect others, and are prone to be more compassionate and understanding towards the struggles that others face.
Lastly, family meetings create a space for individuality and for self-worth. Each member is allowed to decide on family activities and/or meals, giving them a place to feel accepted, important, and valued. By giving these privileges, each member of the family is reminded of their worth to the unit as a whole, while also learning to appreciate the wants and desires of those around them. What a great tool to have in life, especially from a young age!
Here are some suggested tips for the family meeting process:
Begin meetings on a positive note by going around the room and asking each member to say one compliment about all other members of the family. If the child does so sarcastically, ask them to rephrase their comments so that they are kind rather than hurtful.
The second aspect of a family meeting is that of problem-solving. Throughout the week, have a whiteboard or piece of paper available for family members to write things that are concerning them. These things will be put on the agenda to be discussed during the next meeting. At each meeting, go through the list and brainstorm ideas and possible resolutions to each conflict, allowing all members of the family to share their voice if desired. Come up with a plan for each problem.
3) FAMILY PLANNING:
This is the fun part of the meeting for most kids. During this section of the meeting, members get to suggest family activities that they’d like to participate in. Depending on the availability of your schedules, this can vary greatly between families. If you have time for each child to pick a weekly activity (even small things like playing a game, reading a certain book, doing a special craft, etc.), that is great! Another option would be to allow each member to pick their desired activity on a rotating basis. Do whatever works best for your family, but by simply allowing each person to pick, he or she will feel valued, important, and heard. Some families even use this time to create a family meal schedule to ensure that everyone gets at least one meal of choice per week.