Our family has been going through the regular issue of losing our connection to each other as we grow. Between school projects, sports, chores, work, and every single other event going on in our lives, it’s easy to lose sight of each other.
It’s also easy to build up resentments when our expectations aren’t met.
This is a common problem with families. As the activities and responsibilities increase, the time of just sitting and enjoying each other’s company and reconnecting becomes fewer and farther between.
A way to help stave off this problem is by introducing the family meeting.
I know what you’re thinking – What is this, the Cosby Show? I promise you, this is not some cheesy 80’s sitcom idea, but a tried and true method for reconnecting. And before you call me crazy, I urge you to give it a go. However, follow a few easy guidelines:
1. Give ample warning that a Family Meeting is coming up. No one likes to be caught off guard. If you keep a family calendar, add it to the list. Or just make sure to let each person know that it’s coming up, and attendance is mandatory.
2. Start the meeting by stating the ground rules. Everyone gets a chance to speak. The speaker gets the floor. No one should feel disrespected. Add anything else that applies to your family.
3. Have one person take notes. This serves several different purposes. First, it allows there to be a record of meeting points so that there’s no question about what happened during the meeting. Second, it makes it easier to work on the things mentioned during the meeting since they won’t be forgotten. And third, it makes a great job for that one member who has a hard time focusing, since they have to focus to take notes.
4. Every person has to say one nice thing about everyone in the room. This is a great way to start the meeting on the right foot. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s always nice to hear a sincere form of flattery from others. Sometimes families forget how to give genuine compliments to those closest to them. Trust me, this exercise gives each person several positive sentiments they’ll remember long after the meeting is over.
5. Have an agenda. You’d think it would be easy to remember all the things we have to gripe about. But get put on the spot, and all those things are easily forgotten. If you’ve overheard issues around the house, jot them down in a notebook and mention them when no one has anything to bring up. Trust me, a few mentioned issues will suddenly serve as a reminder to several more things that need to be discussed.
6. Listen. This might be the most important step of all. You might have something you want to discuss. But so do the kids. Let them have the floor to discuss all the things that are plaguing them. If you don’t have a solution, at least write them down so you can work at it over time.
7. Keep it short and sweet. Longer meetings run the risk of A) losing the interest of everyone there, and B) having the meeting turn silly and longwinded. Want to make sure your family dreads family meetings? Make it last for a really long time. A better idea is to have a time frame in mind and work hard to stick to it. 20-30 minutes should be plenty of time to talk, or 5 minutes per family member.
8. Discuss how often you want to hold family meetings. Do you think a weekly meeting would work best? Maybe every 2 weeks? Perhaps once a month? Or maybe you just need to hold a meeting as needed. Whatever the decision is, run it by the family at the end of your first meeting to see what everyone thinks. The only right answer is what works best for your family.
Our family held one of these meetings for the first time recently, and I’ll admit that all of us walked into it feeling a little silly. But at the end of the meeting, it was mutually agreed that this was a really good idea. Everyone was able to get out the things that had been bugging them, and even laugh about some of them as we were able to relate. I think everyone’s favorite part was hearing all the nice things everyone else had to say about us, especially from those members we wouldn’t normally hear those things from. The experience brought us closer together, and we decided to hold meetings whenever it felt necessary.
Does it feel like your family is losing their connection? Try out a family meeting, and then let me know in the comments how it went. Good luck!