It takes work to build a happy family, and one handy tool can help: regular family meetings. Getting together to talk on a regular basis helps families build connections, work out problems and share information. Because family meetings give parents and children an equal voice, kids feel listened to and respected. Starting family meetings when children are young provides an invaluable sense of cooperation, safety and stability that transcends to school and social situations. Five healthy living tips help ensure successful family meetings.
- Follow a weekly schedule. Set aside a little time one day a week for a family meeting, and stick to it. When it comes to healthy habits, consistency is the key to success, and in the case of family meetings, consistency helps keep them calm and orderly. It also shows children that family time is important. If families have to skip a meeting for one reason or another, get back on track the following week.
- Keep meetings short and fun. Start with 10-15 minutes for kindergarteners, and extend time as children grow. Add enjoyment with refreshments or a special post-meeting dessert or game.
- Make meetings a "safe place" to share concerns, worries and issues. Encourage everyone to participate in calm problem-solving, and teach children that sometimes it is okay to "agree to disagree."
- Start the meeting with appreciation for other family members. This puts everyone in a "feel good" mood and builds family bonds. It is up to Mom and Dad to make sure everyone gets a mention.
- End family meetings with "can't-waits." These are things that family members are looking forward to in the week to come. Can't-waits might include an exciting new work project for Mom or Dad or a special activity at school or sporting event for the kids.
Both kids and parents benefit from healthy habits like family meetings. These valuable get-togethers foster independence by allowing children to have a voice in important matters, but they also teach the value of interdependence. Learning how to cooperate and compromise helps kids become more effective problem-solvers as they grow into young adults.