By Marie Wallace, Relationship Coach & Interfaith Reverend
Through the work of researcher Brene’ Brown, we have learned one of the most important things for every human being is to be SEEN, HEARD AND VALUED. How do we help our family members to feel loved and appreciated? Family meetings have been a great tool for many families, giving every member an opportunity to voice concerns, celebrate accomplishments, and find solutions to problems.
Here is a short outline of what is important in a meeting, and then you use this foundation to tailor in a way for YOUR family needs.
3 ELEMENTS OF A FAMILY MEETING:
Get to know you better. This can be short questions, a game, or a quick activity (sometimes called an icrebreaker – There are many on Pinterest and church websites.)
Discussion or Listening Activity. Talk about the past week.
There are several versions of listening. The one that works the best in my opinion is called “active listening.” Each person speaks for a set amount of time, from 2 to 5 minutes without anyone interrupting them, offering advice or “helping” in any way. Give acknowledgement through your energy and presence, eye contact and head nods. When they are complete, they are complete. The only thing a family member can do is repeat back what they think they heard to clarify understanding. No advice is given unless someone is asking for it.
Other possible listening activities can be Hi/Lo/Buffalo where you share the highlight of your day, a low point of your day and something random; or, Rose of your day, and a thorn of your day. (This one is great for little ones.)
As these meetings evolve, you can start introducing problem solving techniques and learning to give each other compliments and praises.
Connecting Activity. Conclude with a connecting kind of activity like playing a game, going for icecream or another family favorite outing. If you are running short on time, just be sure to close with something positive like a family hug, a secret family handshake, or a family motto.
· Talking stick – Whomever is holding the stick is the only one who can talk. It’s fun to co-create a stick together, or you can use a painted rock, stuffed animal or any other item of your choice.
· Establish rules of engagement. Examples include: no electronics, no advice giving, take turns talking,
· Keep meetings short – Keeping meetings short encourages participation. As you get more stamina, then you can make them longer. It’s suggested no longer than an hour. (30 minutes for young kiddos.)
· Incentives – create fun ways to incentivize them at first ….
· Encourage participation – Let everyone know that they are not required to speak and allow them to pass if needed. Also let them know how much you would really like to hear what they have to say!
· Agenda – As you get more established, it’s helpful having an agenda. This teaches kids that when they have a problem, they can bring it up in front of a loving family and be heard. As things come up, people can write their concerns on an “upcoming” agenda. Don’t forget to write celebrations too!
· Enhanced COMMUNICATION!
· Encourages each member to talk about their feelings so they don’t get overwhelmed.
· Preventive Maintenance – come up with solutions before the problem arises
· Positive communication.
· People feel loved and seen and appreciated