• If you don’t already believe in them, then I am going to try to convince you of the importance of having weekly family meetings. It might help to know that I didn’t think much of them myself – in my mind our family is together and talk a lot.  We have dinner together most nights (my wife would say only some nights) of the week and as a family we do things together all the time. So my impression was that we spoke about everything that needed to be discussed.  However, that being said, I did come to realize that somehow we still never really got to talk about some of the important family issues that would come up during the week. Furthermore, if someone did bring something up, it was often in passing and other members of the family were out of the loop or didn’t have a chance to provide their input.

    I did come to realize that somehow we still never really got to talk about some of the important family issues that would come up…

    So, we decided to try a family meeting out.  Admittedly, at first it felt a little weird and formal for our informal family.  But by the end of the meeting everyone agreed that it was useful, fun and worth our time. We all felt more connected and the kids expressed their joy with being able to vent their concerns and share their opinions about family matters. We were hooked and chose to hold regular meetings on Thursday evenings, right after dinner to keep our weekends free. It is important to schedule a time that is free from distractions and best for you and your family.

    A family meeting should take you only about 30 minutes and is best structured as an open forum where children feel safe to bring up their own topics and feelings so they can share ideas. It’s helpful to keep a small dry-erase board or chalkboard somewhere centrally located in the house (like on the fridge) to maintain and add topics to be discussed. Set the ground rules– no arguing, no fighting, attendance expectations, etc.  Our agenda is pretty open but I have provided an outline of some topics we have discussed at our family meetings. I’d love to hear interesting ideas you might have.

    Topics to Discuss:

    1) Safety Concerns/Safety Plans – This can include anything from natural disaster preparedness (see our Playdate Disaster Readiness checklist and video) to specific contact information, supplies and location to meet in case of an emergency.

    2) Lesson of the week – This can be a new lesson to teach everyone (such as First Aid/CPR), or can be an arena to discuss discipline issues, reinforce general household rules, or dole out any educational pearls. This is a great time to perform and practice drills.

    3) School or Professional Goals – An update on how family members are doing and a forum to see if anyone needs help or can provide assistance or suggestions to others. Someone may have an interest s/he would like to pursue or perhaps needs help finding out more information on a topic.

    4) Upcoming Trips – Family trips are always exciting to discuss. Even if a trip does not include the whole family, it’s important to discuss traveling plans. Who may need to cover for other family members and what arrangements have been made. Also, people can bring up their wish list of trips or activities they’d like to do as a family.

    5) Assignment of Chores – Who’s doing what and listing the specific expectations so everyone is on the same page.

    6) Update of Extended Family – This keeps them connected to family members (distant or close) not living in the household and gives them a chance to express feelings they may want to share. Anyone can provide suggestions on how to keep the extended family bonds together. This way family members can find out who got married, who gave birth, who’s living where and other information before they actually see them in person and are totally embarrassed because they have no clue (I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to me).

    7) Exercise & Health – How to promote it and specific ideas on what the family should be doing to maintain it. This includes healthy eating habits and physical activity.

    8) Open Discussion – Anyone in the family can introduce a new topic. Go around the room to make sure everyone has a turn but be sure to avoid this turning into a griping session. It should be productive and kept to a minimum as to not detract from the focus of the meeting or hold others unnecessarily hostage.

    For some reason, if it has to do with work, we all accept the importance and benefits of having a weekly meeting.  Yet, if it’s at home or for our own families, we (myself included) often allow things to fall by the wayside, simply because we can.  Let me assure you that with weekly family meetings the effort is well worth the pay-off.