After months of forced togetherness, it may sound silly to suggest the answer to any parenting problems might be more togetherness. But it’s true: intentionally setting aside time to connect with our little ones and problem-solve issues as a team can be enormously beneficial. It’s a moment for bonding and open communication and lays the groundwork for a more peaceful environment for everyone to live in.
Sure, setting up a standing weekly meeting for your family can initially feel a bit stilted and awkward. But start when your children are very small, and the benefits are two-fold: 1. They’re less likely to resist your time together, and 2. they’re so used to these meetings that, by the teenage years when you really need that connection, no one bats an eye at them.
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Why Family Meetings Matter
When you hold meetings on a regular basis, you reinforce the idea that your family operates as a team. Everything in your home runs on your support of one another—and meetings give you the perfect opportunity to make that messaging stick.
But perhaps even more importantly, by involving your young children in this way, you’re also showing them that they have important thoughts and ideas. A family meeting that encourages contributions can not only open channels of communication—but also empower kids to use the power of their voice to elicit change.
How to Get Started
To set a collaborative tone for your meetings, decide on the specifics together, whether you gather in the backyard after school or around the breakfast table before your day truly begins.
The Prep Work
While you are the parent and still make the rules, you want everyone to have equal buy-in on your time together. Encourage kids to come to the first meeting prepared with issues, questions, or suggestions to discuss. Let them know that while no idea is too silly or outrageous to share, your family won’t be able to implement everything you dream up. The hope here is that you preemptively temper their disappointment while still asking for input.
To make your discussions meaningful, your kids need to feel free to share what’s on their minds. So, how do you create a safe space? You can start by establishing a simple ground rule that what’s said within your meetings is meant for your family’s ears only. Additionally, you’ll want to validate any feelings of upset right at the start so that everyone feels heard rather than dismissed or judged.
There’s no right way to hold a family meeting, but there are plenty of ways to help ensure it’s meaningful time you’re spending together. Consider including some of these items on your weekly agenda.
Share Moments of Gratitude
Start each meeting off on the right foot by setting a grateful and happy vibe. Throughout the week, task your kids with the following: observing one another in play or work and jotting down something that made you feel grateful for them. Kick off each meeting by sharing all of your joyful moments, even if they’re as small as someone picking up toys without being asked. If your kids are too young to participate in this activity, then make it something only the grown-ups share.
Review Your Calendar
Ease into each get-together with something light: reviewing big important dates on the horizon. Use this time to remind everybody about grandma’s birthday, the first day of school, etc. This helps ensure there are no surprises lurking for you on the horizon and keeps kids organized and on-track.
Air Your Grievances
There’s a fine line between bringing up pain points for group discussion and harping on an individual’s poor behavior. Use this time to bring up issues that affect the collective instead of singling out one child’s poor behavior. This is your opportunity to review expectations (e.g. books belong on the bookshelf, not the floor) and chat over anything not working.
Encourage Kids to Speak Up
Nudge your little ones to use their voice and bring up issues that are bothering them. While I’m not suggesting you allow your child to run the show, I do think children deserve our respect and, consequently, a voice in how things run in their home. This is such an excellent way to teach kids to respectfully share their concerns and work together to solve a problem.