Today’s families are busy. Between sports practices and schoolwork, parents and children need time to connect. Holding a weekly family meeting fosters a sense of community between you, your spouse and your children. Whether you are already holding regular family meetings or plan to start soon, make the most out of your time together by using the tips below.
Routines are important to most aspects of life and family meetings are no exception. Having a regular place, time and flow of activity for your family meetings will help to keep parents on track and kids focused. When children know what to expect, they are more likely to pay attention.
Pick a place where everyone is comfortable. Hold the family meeting at a time when the children are less likely to be overtired or hungry.
After a few weeks, your meeting schedules will become second nature. Being able to anticipate the timing, the place and the schedule will allow your children to participate at the appropriate times instead of constantly asking when you are going to get to their favorite part.
Know what you are going to talk about before you start. It is never fun for kids, or adults for that matter, to sit and listen to someone pontificate without really saying anything. If you don’t plan in advance, you may end up spinning your wheels. Having a standard list of things you talk about each week (highlights from the previous week, upcoming events, etc.) as well as the important, timely information you need to relay for the upcoming week will help guide you through the meeting.
Follow the same order of events each week. You can start with a generic opening or prayer, have a quick dance party, discuss what happened to each individual over the course of the week, give everyone a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns and discuss the upcoming week’s events. Whatever agenda items you come up with can be incorporated into a schedule that works for your family.
Sit down with your spouse beforehand and make sure that you both note things that you want to share with your children during the meeting. Have a “pre-meeting” each week to make sure you cover the bases before bringing in the kids.
Give Everyone a Turn
Kids like to be the center of attention. It you give everyone a turn to speak during your family meeting, your kids will get on board (if only to be the center of attention for a minute or two). Teaching your children at a young age not to talk over each other will allow your family meetings to run more smoothly and help you get the information you want to share to your kids more effectively.
Respect Your Littles
Sitting for an extended period of time does not work when you have small children. If you keep this in mind when you plan out your family meetings, it will save you all a lot of headaches. Keep family meetings short at first (not exceeding fifteen minutes). As the children get older or as you have more children, you may decide that you want to spend more time on family meetings. Fifteen minutes is a good start.
Respect the inability of small children to sit quietly. Let them shake their sillies out during the “Family Dance Party.” Immediately after opening the family meeting, cheer on each child as they bust a move in the center of the playroom. Once they have been allowed to expend some energy, they will be more willing to sit still.
Give your children an assignment or something to think about over the coming week. This will give you a point to refer back to at the beginning of your next family meeting. Let them choose a character quality to focus on, a poem to memorize or a book to read to the family the following leak. Make sure to incorporate these items into your agenda for the following week.
Family meetings will not always run perfectly, but regular family meetings build time into your schedule to talk, listen and connect with the most important people in your life. These tips will help you to plan ahead for some of the most common pitfalls families run into when they first begin the ritual.
Beth N. Davis writes from Silver Spring, MD where she and her husband are raising their four children.