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How to Facilitate Family Meetings

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

Family meetings are a great way to involve all the family members in the logistics of the family. In family meetings, family members can increase communication skills, cooperation, respect, creativity, expression of feelings, and problem-solving. Family meetings are a time where family members can sit and talk about whatever is on their minds. Meetings are generally on the same day and at the same time each week. They generally have an agenda. Each meeting can start with appreciations, which is when each family goes around and say what they appreciate especially pertaining to the family. After appreciations the meeting proceed into old business, problem-solving of any problems in the family, and scheduling of everyone’s activities and time. The meeting can then end with a fun activity that may be playing a game or going out for ice cream.

Here are 10 tips from an article from Colorado State University for having successful family meetings.

1. Meet at a regularly scheduled time.

Begin and end on time. Guard meeting times and encourage high commitment by keeping them a high priority. Sometimes discussions can run over-time so one parent should appoint themselves as the time-keeper. At 10 minutes before the meeting is over, the time-keeper parent should see if family members believe the discussion will be resolved in 10 minutes or if they want to extend the meeting time or schedule a new meeting to continue the discussion.

2. Rotate meeting responsibilities (e.g., leader, secretary, and timekeeper).

Treating everybody as equals provide all family members with practice at problem-solving. Encourage all to be good listeners. The original leader should be an adult family member who can be a role model of positive/open communication and listening skills and mediation skills. The leader starts and ends the meeting on time and helps the family develop the rules to follow. One example of a rule is: Only one person speaks at a time; the rest listen well enough so they can repeat back to the speaker’s satisfaction what he or she said and feels. The leader makes sure all points of view are heard. Other examples of responsibilities include a secretary to take notes of the meeting and timekeeper who makes sure the meeting starts and ends on time.

3. Encourage all family members to participate.

In a safe environment, family members can express their opinions without punishment or retaliation. Parents may need to role-model how to show love during difficult discussions.

4. Discuss one topic and solve one problem at a time.

After appreciations are given, The leader might start the discussion with, “The problem we want to solve today is …. Is this agreeable?” Later the family can renegotiate more time if necessary. As the leader notices the discussion moving off track, he or she might say: “That sounds like an issue we may want to discuss at another time. But for now the issue we’re here to discuss is ….” Some children may be able to better voice their concerns through writing, drawing, and role-playing. It is important in these meetings to utilize the strengths of each family member to help discuss and resolve the issue.

The topic(s) of discussion in the family meeting should be something that affects the whole family. For instance, if the issue just affects the parents or two of the siblings, then this should not be discussed at the family meeting.

5. Use I-messages.

Often when we are upset we start sentences with “You are so…..” or “You do this all the time and it makes me mad.” When the person we are talking to hears this, they immediately go on the defense. However, when you are sharing this information often you are trying to voice a concern or emotion. Try starting sentences with “I feel sad when…” or “I get upset when…” This helps the other family members understand how you feel and what you want to be changed without feeling personally attacked.

6. Use problem-solving steps.

Remember to use I-messages, use active listening, and allow everyone to speak and be heard.

7. Make decisions by consensus.

Consensus is defined as communicating, problem-solving, and negotiating on major issues until no family member has any major objections to the decision; or when all members can live with it. Autocratic decision-making allows one person to decide. Democratic decision-making allows the majority to decide. Neither works well in families where people live, work, and play side by side. Those family members who do not feel heard may sabotage decisions made this way.

Decision-making by consensus incorporates the major needs and wants of all. It allows effective communication, problem-solving, anger, and conflict management. The decision choices need to be something that all family members can live with emotionally, financially, physically, and mentally.

8. Once it appears that you have an agreement, make sure you have reached a consensus.

“What I’m hearing us say we can all agree to do is ….” Does anyone have any major objections?” If someone does have a problem, talk, and negotiate some more.

9. If things get “too hot to handle,” anyone can call for a break.

Take a break for perhaps 15 minutes, or whatever time is needed, before meeting again.

10. End with something that is fun and that affirms family members.

Enjoy a family tradition, a bowl of popcorn and a good television program, or a game that everybody enjoys.

By following these ten tips and holding family meetings, family members can increase communication skills, cooperation, respect, creativity, expression of feelings, and problem-solving.

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