Carol was having a difficult time parenting her two teenage daughters, Sarah and Selena. After trying a slew of parenting tactics she read online, ranging from mild persuasion to authoritative discipline, the single mother of two decided to hold a family meeting and talk about it. In the meeting, which was rarely conducted in their home, Carol expressed her feelings of failure as a parent and was honest with her two children.
In turn, Sarah and Selena also expressed their feelings, dissatisfactions, stress with high school assignments. After that, they held weekly family meetings. The atmosphere in the house improved, Carol started to feel more connected to her daughters and parenting became easier.
What changed between the single mother and her two daughters? Well, they felt connected. And this connection was built thanks to family meetings.
Family meetings, whether held once a week or a couple of times every week, are extremely crucial in an age where teenagers are plastered to their mobile phones and parents lead increasingly hectic lives. When every family member is busy leading their own lives, it becomes challenging to find time to spend with your family, make connections and form a strong bond.
Most family meetings tend to occur during dinner or at mealtime. But you can also get creative and have them at the park, in the car during a road trip or during a picnic.
If you’re still not convinced about the power of getting all family members together, here are some benefits:
- Family meetings build children’s self-esteem since they can vocalize their worries and air their problems to their parents and elder siblings. It makes them feel like a valued family member.
- Family meetings help members bond with each other. And all meetings need not be serious. Some of them can be fun and silly. You can play monopoly or have a pillow fight or plan a family trip. It doesn’t always have to be about assigning chores, talking about problems or arriving at solutions.
- It encourages family members to understand each other’s differing perspectives. Maybe Sarah is envious that Selena has a cool friend at school and maybe Selena is envious of Sarah making it in the school’s basketball team. Maybe they both got jealous of each other and started fighting more. In a family meeting, they can talk about their varying perspectives and understand each other.
- Family meetings are a great platform to share information. You can use them to make announcements like your promotion or that Aunt Jane is moving from Florida to New York.
- Meetings that involve all family members teach kids to solve problems cohesively. Rather than having one parent solve a family problem, everyone can chip in their thoughts about the issue at hand. Then, a solution can be arrived at after considering everyone’s opinions.
However, family meetings must be done in a constructive manner. Here are six great tips to get you started:
- Don’t force family meetings to take place and coerce family members into joining it if they aren’t in a mood. It must happen naturally. You could say that “If you want to share and talk about your day (or week), you’re most welcome to. Otherwise, don’t worry we can do it another day.”
- Give everyone a chance to talk or share but don’t force it. Sometimes, kids and teenagers just aren’t in a mood to talk about their concerns.
- Let it be flexible. Of course, family meetings can be used to solve problems and express worries but it can also be fun. Don’t be afraid to play games together.
- Parents must share too. You need to talk about how your day went or what problems you’re facing personally and professionally. Children learn by example so if you actively participate in meetings, they will too.
- If family members interrupt each other, know that it’s normal. You just need to gently remind them to speak when it’s their turn.
- Be consistent. Hold family meetings weekly, daily or a few times a week but be consistent with them.
Remember that it’s never too late to become a family and try to connect with your members. Teenagers may not come around to the idea of attending meetings at first but with time, they will want to know what they’re missing out on. You can also swap stories about grandpa and grandma, share cooking recipes, reminisce about a past family trip or just laugh. The goal is to connect.
If you’re having trouble holding family meetings, perhaps it’s time to get some help from a professional. Feel free to contact Orly Gueron a Licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship specialist in Aventura, FL!