As daily routines have likely shifted, new family needs will emerge. Whether or not this has been a norm for you in the past, organizing a family meeting can encourage family unity and help everyone feel connected and known.
1. THINK THROUGH NEEDS AND GOALS
Part of leading your family involves thinking through your particular needs. Before talking with your kids, take some time to think through the strengths and weaknesses of each family member. What are the potential challenges of this season, and what changes should be made to accommodate for them? What do your children need most at this time? Like us, kids love having a sense of purpose and direction, and part of your family meeting could include collaborating on both personal and family goals.
2. FOCUS ON CONNECTING AND LISTENING
The main goal of family meetings is to help everyone feel connected and valued. Ask questions and allow time for each person to voice their response. As a parent, you can model empathy by affirming the emotions you hear, i.e. "that sounds really sad" or by encouraging positive behaviors, i.e. "you're doing a great job with ___." In general, family meetings are a time for connection, not correction.
3. KEEP IT POSITIVE
Explain that your family is a team and teams don't fight against one another, instead they work together towards a common goal. Family meetings are safe spaces for each person to express their emotions and desires. Negative judgement statements are not allowed, i.e. "that's stupid" or "you're such a baby." Help your children abide by the golden rule and explain that you allow only encouraging words. Everyone gets a chance to talk, and everyone's words are important.
4. GET CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN
Making a special snack, starting with a silly joke, collaborating on a name for your meeting, etc. will help set an inviting tone for your time together. Children's needs vary—and that calls for creativity in your response. When needs are expressed during the meeting, you might respond by suggesting the creation of a special "alone time" fort for one child, or a themed one-on-one time for another child. Invite them into the creative process of meeting each other's needs.
5. ASK OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS
So much has happened this week and we want to hear how each of you is doing.
What are some of the fun changes that have happened this week?
What are some of the hard changes?
What are you missing right now?
Does anything feel scary right now?
What do you need more of/less of?
How can we help you?
Do you feel like you're part of our family team? Why/why not?
What goals would you like to set this week?
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