Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Companies hold meetings. Why shouldn't familes??

If you work for a company or organization that has various departments, different levels of management or for that matter has more than 1 employee, chances are you have company meetings. The purpose of meeting is to check in with everyone that plays a role in the healthy functioning of that company. Checking in gives everyone the opportunity to voice what’s going on in their worlds, ask for support, be heard, speak up about things that aren’t working, and recognize achievement and effort. It gets everyone on the same page and puts conflicts on the table where they can be discussed and resolved. If it works for companies, why not families? Why do we assume that a healthy, functional family “just happens”?

My household is a blended family. I am mom to my 13yo son, step-mom to two other wonderful boys (also young teenagers), and partner to their dad. We started having family meetings a few months ago to help bring some stability and support to the challenges everyone seemed to be facing after being thrown into one household together. It was easy when we were dating and we would spend a day together and then retreat back to our respective household routines. Four years later, we merged households and started the slow process of becoming a real family. But it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Our boys are about the same age but had different bedtimes, homework schedules, rules for TV/computer, and expectations around chores. We were all adjusting to having many more personalities in the house and conflict seemed to come easy. It saddened me that subtle, unresolved conflicts were creating an undercurrent of disconnect that undermined the family sanctuary I had intended to create. So we got some advice from an exceptional counselor* and started holding family meetings.

We hold them every other week and try to keep them sacred. The first couple meetings were more about setting the stage for what they would be like. We were advised to keep them brief, stay on topic, and be fair so everyone feels safe to share. We set some ground rules. No interrupting, no criticism, and everyone participates. Everyone gets a chance to say what’s on their minds, what’s working or not working, what they would like and how they see it (doesn't mean they get what they want, but they do get respect and attention). At the end, we go around the room again and each person has to say what they appreciate about the person to their left and to their right. This leaves us all feeling loved, connected, and valued. It dawned on me later that what we were learning was Listening 101. I have been astounded at how powerful these meetings have been in helping us connect and how articulate and insightful our teens can be when given the chance to be heard. I highly recommend them for any family.

I could write so much more about different topics and examples of discussions we’ve had that have shifted the family dynamic to one of support and unity. But maybe I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, I thought I’d list some great sites and articles I found that talk about family meetings:

You can comment here or visit my forum and join the family meeting discussion over there!

* If you are in the Boulder/Denver area and would like more info on the counselor I mentioned, please email me at holly (at) theblogfrog (dot) com. I would be happy to introduce you.


momstheword said...

What a great idea! It reminds me of Cheaper By the Dozen when they talked about family meetings.

We had game nights but never actually held a family meeting.

Listening 101 is exactly what it is. Teaching kids to listen without turning up their "me" filter and turning you out.

Nicole said...

Great idea. Once my little ones get better at communicating it would probably work wonders!

The Redhead Riter said...

We have meetings and there definitely can not be any yelling or the opposite...ignoring

Stopping by to share the blog ♥ !

Have a great Saturday!

Banteringblonde said...

This is an excellent idea ... one we have resolved to do a few times but somehow fall away from! I think as the kids get older it will be more important. Thank you for this post!

Mrs4444 said...

We had family meetings for a while when the kids were small. It was really nice. (Got the idea from Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families). Not sure why we stopped, but things are running very smoothly nowadays, too :) You family will definitely benefit.

Summer said...

Okay, I am all over this. Jimmy and I sometimes do a "family" meeting with just him and I, but I am liking what you do.

I'm about to go back and take notes!

Motherboard said...

We have family meetings in my home! It's the only way to make things work and clearly define expectations!

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