In the business world it is essential that a company hold regular business meetings. Companies have discovered that to survive an organization must maintain a high level of trust, cooperation, and communication. The most effective way to assure that this happens, even in the modern world of electronic marvels, is by planning face-to-face, individual, and group meetings. So it is with the family. Regular meetings of the family help to assure that everyone is on the same page. Such meetings I will call Family Councils. This article is an attempt to outline the what, why, and how of such meetings.
Some principals I have discovered that may give parents some ideas that may be of help:
1. Give the Family Council Meeting a place of prominence in the family. Make it a standing meeting held at the same time each week when all family members can be present. Even if you have a young family, hold a regular meeting so your children will become “use to” this "tradition."
2. Since this is an "executive" meeting, the Father or Mother should conduct it.
3. Start the meeting the same way every time. (Our family starts our meeting with a prayer and an old Indian chant that I learned in high school.) Stating the meeting the same way every time let’s everyone present know that you are now in "meeting mode" and that everyone needs to attend.
4. Start the meeting on time and end the meeting on time. If your family is young, a 30-minute meeting is plenty of time. If you have an older family you may need to plan an hour.
5. Your format should be the same every time. Usually the agenda will include the following items.
a. Opening: Keep this short.
b. Calendaring: Everyone brings a calendar and makes notes on it.
c. Information: Special events (follow up from previous meetings), and items of interest to everyone present.
d. Concerns of the Parents: This should not be a lecture. It should be observations that the parents have made during the week that should be worked on by everyone during the upcoming week. (“I notice that we are leaving home later then we want to on school days. Does anyone have ideas on how we can get around a little faster in the morning?)
e. Concerns of the Children: Asking each child what things they would like the family/parents to know or work is of real value. Parents do not need to agree or disagree with the child at this point, only hear the child. Later the parents can discuss what they want to do about the child's concern. (Be aware that small children will bring up "problems" just to use the system. These problems do not need to be addressed as this is just practice.)
f. Allowance Dispersion: This meeting is a good time to provide the children with their allowance and allowance pay stub. (The allowance pay stub details deductions to the allowance, if needed. It can contain a short note of encouragement for the child.)
g. Closing: A song, prayer, or chant could be used. Find a way of that ends the meeting the same way every time.
h. Snack: You may want to serve a snack after each meeting.
Another idea is to plan an individual meeting with an individual child after each family session. A child can look forward to the special meeting (usually monthly) that he/she has with Mom or Dad after Family Council.
A Family Council meeting, if held regularly, can address many family concerns. Things that normally get handled in the "heat of the battle" can be held until the Council and discussed in a non-emotional and problem solving setting. Family calendars will be a little less hectic. Children will learn that it is ok to express themselves and their concerns. It also gives Mom and Dad information from the family and a place to organize and inform the family.
The benefits of holding Family Councils are many. Council meetings help to create an atmosphere of trust, cooperation, and communication that can be accomplished in no other way. The Family Council also provides parents a tool that can build relationships, solve problems, and create memories.