TIPS FOR PARENTS
Do you and your family pass like ships in the night,
communicating via Post-it notes, texts and e-mails, even when
you're in the same house?
If this approach leaves you wanting, perhaps it's time to give
family meetings a try. Even if you already make face-time a
priority, you might find the structure of regular family meetings
Not sure you want to add another appointment to your already
jammed planner? Try it, you'll like it. It might surprise you how
Regularly scheduled family meetings, even in families with one
child, can help to promote communication and harmony. You'll
discover ways to make them work best for your family, but consider
Aim for consistency. Weekly meetings at the same time and place
work well for most families and should be kept, even if there
appears to be no compelling reason for one. Nobody will take
them seriously if they are often cancelled or rescheduled, so pick
a time you're more likely to keep. This way, when issues crop up
that need attention, there will already be a mechanism in place for
sorting them out productively. Sunday evenings after dinner work
well for my brood.
Keep a running list of agenda items on your refrigerator for
everyone to contribute to and consider before the next family
meeting. Brainstorm vacation plans, map out the week's schedule of
chores and appointments and call attention to those things over the
past week that you wish to celebrate and reinforce. Mentioning
these joys on your meeting agenda can be a great motivator.
Your first meeting should be brief-aim for about 15 minutes-and
is the time to establish ground rules: no shouting, take turns
speaking, etc. No one should be left out. After the first few,
which parents can take turns chairing (deciding when to move on to
the next agenda item after checking in with each family member to
ensure they feel heard), the kids can also take turns at making
sure the meetings run smoothly.
I find that families who make family meetings work for them are
prone to fewer emotional dramas because concerns tend not to
fester. In other words, the more family members get used to
trusting that there will be a time and a place for their concerns
to be heard, the less likely they are to act out their
This is a big deal. Families who successfully use family
meetings as a communication tool report boosts in their sense of
well-being and individual self-esteem, as well as increased
security and confidence in themselves and their families to
collaborate and problem-solve in constructive and emotionally safe
Above all, family meetings have the power to teach children that
"being heard" is valuable. Learning this sets them up to expect
this in future relationships, a benefit with obvious rewards, for
generations to come.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and
family therapist in private practice in Batavia. She has been a
clinical member of The American Association for Marriage and Family
Therapy since 1995 and is a featured blogger at
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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